This is a summary based on my understanding of the novel. Please also note that this summary contains spoilers. You may want to read the entire book first before proceeding - click this link to purchase via amazon.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink – Novel Summary
When Michael Berg had hepatitis, a woman of 36 helped him. He was 15 at that time. When he was well, he sent her flowers to say thank you, but then one thing led to another. They shared intimate moments despite the age gap. They lasted for some time but then Hanna (the 36 years old woman) left. The last time he saw her was when he was on the pool and she stood watching him. The next days she was gone.
Years later he saw Hanna again. He is a law student and she’s in the courthouse because of some trouble that she caused. She applied as a guard but there was a certain situation that led to deaths of prisoners, and she took all the blame. The other suspects were sentenced to be imprisoned for years while she was sentenced a lifetime because she took the blame on being the one who wrote the false report. She claimed it was hers. And all the while Michael knows the truth: she is illiterate. That was why she would ask him to read her stories before or after having sex. She can’t read and write, and she’d rather be in jail for a lifetime than let everyone know about her weakness.
While in prison, she received audiobooks from Michael he read himself just to give it to her. She learned to read and write with it.
One day, the warden sent Michael a letter telling him that Hanna may be going out soon.. That he’s the only one that could help her. So he bought an apartment and prepared a job for her. When he was finally able to meet her, he noticed how much she changed. She is already an old woman, gone was the woman he loved and desired.
On the day of her freedom, she was found hanging on her cell, lifeless.