I really didn’t know what to expect, going into this book. I honestly thought it was simply a morality story based on an inappropriate relationship. And then when I found out that Hanna used to be an SS officer, I was shocked. I had no idea that the Holocaust featured at all in the look, let alone that it featured so heavily.
I appreciated that Michael cared about Hanna, even after learning what she did. I think that he wanted to hate her; he wanted to see the awfulness of her actions and condemn her for them, but I think that was hard for him because he can’t get past the relationship he once had with her.
I’m glad that Hanna learned to read, and it’s admirable that not only did she learn, but that she focused so heavily on learning about concentration camps and exactly what she did as a part of the Holocaust. While she was completely guilty of her actions and should be held accountable, I can understand that propaganda and even techniques similar to brainwashing could make it difficult for her to see what she truly did. When one is trained to see certain people as less than human, the moral factor goes away. I believe that’s one of the ways that the German people were convinced to do such awful things – by being manipulated and brainwashed. It was brave of Hanna to look outside of herself and attempted to learn what truly happened.
Although it may be an unpopular opinion, I didn’t like the way the elderly lady (whose name I can’t remember) acted upon being offered money from Hanna. She said that it would be like granting Hanna absolution, and she wasn’t willing to do that. While I understand that the things that Hanna did were truly unforgivable, the woman was passing up money that could go directly to amazing causes. She could have helped so many people with that money, but chose not to because she didn’t want to grant Hanna absolution. At this point, Hanna was already dead, so what difference did it make? I understand that the principle is what’s important, and I can’t ever put myself in the woman’s shoes, but still. Fortunately, the money went somewhere important anyway, and contributed to literacy in the Jewish community.
I gave this book three stars on Goodreads.