This is a summary based on our understanding of the series.
Please also note that this summary contains spoilers.
15-year-old Michael Berg met 36-year-old Hanna Schmitz when he wasn’t feeling well from school, and she attended to him until he got home. When he got better, he visited Hanna to personally thank her.
Michael returns to Hanna’s apartment, she seduces him, and they began an affair. Right after school, Michael would run towards Hanna’s apartment so they could have sex. Their affair went on, and Hanna asks Michael to read to her before they have sex. Michael enjoys reading to Hanna, Hanna enjoy being read to – and they both enjoy having sex.
Hanna later on learns that she got promoted, which meant she has to move away and leave Michael behind. They had sex one last time, then the next time Michael visits her apartment, she was no longer around. She didn’t tell him where she was going.
A few years has passed, Michael is now a law student. When he observed one trial, he saw Hanna once again, but this time, she is one of the defendants. Hanna worked as a guard and was accused of letting Jewish women perish in a fire. Hanna got the heaviest sentence – as she was accused of writing the report (making her the leader). Hanna denied it at first, saying she didn’t write it, and she was simply one of the guards. However, the other defendants insisted that she wrote it. The judge asked her to write something down to check her penmanship – she looked at the pen and paper in front of her, then later admitted the crime.
Michael realized that Hanna is not guilty, but he didn’t say anything. He remember how Hanna asked him to read to her, how she refused to read what he once wrote, how she didn’t order from the menu once. Michael realized that Hanna could not read and write, yet she admitted to writing the report, where she gets a life sentence.
Another set of years passed. Michael is already a lawyer, divorced, has one grown up daughter. Hanna is still in prison. After Michael’s divorce, he sorted out his books and started reading them and recording on tape. He later on labeled it and sent to Hanna in prison. Hanna enjoyed listening to the recordings – and with the help of the tapes, she taught herself how to read and write.
When she was finally able to write, she wrote to Michael, thanking him. Then she wrote some more. Her letters were short.
Hanna also started borrowing books from the library and her ability to read and write greatly improved.
A prison officer has contacted Michael informing him that Hanna will be released from prison because of good behavior. The officer asked Michael’s help because Hanna has no one, and she will definitely need guidance once she has been released. Michael finally decided to meet Hanna for the first time after so many years.
The two of them talked, then Michael told Hanna that he will be collecting her, that he will be helping her out. He found her an apartment and a job – everything will be ready for her once she gets out.
When Michael arrives at prison on Hanna’s release date – he was informed that Hanna killed herself. She hang herself in her prison cell. She also left a note asking for her money to be given to Michael, so he can give it to Ilana Mather, a survivor of the fire that broke out back when she was still a guard.
Michael travelled to meet Ilana so he could give her Hanna’s money. Ilana wasn’t interested with the money, but she did take the tin can (container). The money will be donated to a Jewish organization dealing with literacy.
The End of The Reader Movie.