I finished The Reader in one night a couple of nights ago. It was a fast read - only took about two to three hours - and I'd wanted to get through it so I could watch the movie soon.
I liked the book, though again, here is an example of a book that I really wanted to touch me, but fell a little short. But, it might also have been that I read it at like 3 in the morning.
What I did enjoy though was sort of the way it played with your sympathies, and this idea of choice in an impossible situation. While you can never condone what Hanna does, through the eyes of this boy, you see a woman confused, lonely, and not nearly bright enough (but proud enough) to walk away from duties she's given. There's a lack of critical thought that's portrayed, a deficit she tries to make up for, and a real sense that her lack of education is something she wants to change.
As a Holocaust book, I'm not sure where it stands. It brings up some real questions about the nature of the Holocaust from the perspective of all the willing participants. It brings up the questions of how an entire country could have mindlessly followed Hitler's path of destruction and supported it, either actively or passively. Even now, you look back (or you don't even have to look back as it happens every day) and you wonder how decent people can be swayed such as to believe that such acts of brutality are not only normal, but necessary. That there is no alternative. And one wonders if like with any other trauma, there's a numbness and a need to "buy in" that goes with it. One does what one needs to in order to survive.
It interested me too, that the narrator himself was so numb and apathetic following Hanna's disappearance, and that he is able to watch most of the proceedings in a detached manner. It portrayed the compartmentalization that occurs, a process that is both necessary at times and yet incredibly damaging to a person.
In any case, I thought it was a good read. Nothing spectacular, but definitely made you think.