Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two Brothers by Ben Elton

I hesitated to read this book at first as I thought it would be just another Holocaust book and I wasn't sure I felt like reading another one.  However, I'm glad I changed my mind - this book had some interesting twists (mingled with the typical Holocaust fare) which definitely kept my attention.

Otto and Paulus are born in Berlin in 1920.  They are raised as twins by a Jewish couple - a doctor and her husband a musician.  However, they are not really twins by blood - and we do not find out until midway through the book which is the real son and which is the adopted son.  There are hints but they are not sufficiently consistent for you to be sure.  But when the Nazis come to power, all the sudden blood is of utmost importance so the parents explain the situation to their sons.

So we then learn how the two boys - one Jewish and one Aryan make their way through the war.  We also learn the fate of the girl, Dagmar, the pampered daughter of a rich Jewish department store owner who is the object of devotion of both boys.  She starkly exhibits the lengths some people have to go to in order to survive in extraordinary times.  The fourth member of the "Saturday Club" is Silke, the Christian daughter of Otto and Paulus' family maid.  She illustrates the goodness and loyalty that some people maintained - despite her unrequited love for Otto, pressure from her SA step father and the general dangers of the times for those who helped Jews.

The story of the past is intertwined with the story of one twin who is clearly alive in London in the 1950s - however, we also are not sure which twin that is until well into the book.

Elton keeps you interested by only revealing key facts part way through the book - but it does not feel either contrived or frustrating.

All in all this was a really good read.

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