Friday, March 29, 2013

Two Brothers by Ben Elton

About the Book

Berlin 1920
Two babies are born.
Two brothers. United and indivisible, sharing everything. Twins in all but blood.
As Germany marches into its Nazi Armageddon, the ties of family, friendship and love are tested to the very limits of endurance. And the brothers are faced with an unimaginable choice...
Which one of them will survive?
Ben Elton's most personal novel to date, Two Brothers transports the reader to the time of history's darkest hour.

Let’s kick off Boeke season with a bang.

Having never read Ben Elton, but knowing his reputation, I was incredibly intimidated by Two Brothers; not only because the subject carries more emotional baggage than it does pages, but it seems a trend of Holocaust books are landing fast and furiously among us – are we finally able to admit that wars make monsters of men while still boosting the economy? It’s a tricky subject and for fear of dropping to the floor in an emotional heap, I tend to avoid heavy set, thickly rich, wartime, historical fiction. It’s a tough life kids, but someone has to read them!  

I put my big-girl reading glasses on and set to work, with a setting that history classes filled in for me, Ben Elton adds a dollop of trouble to the mix, by weaving it around two brothers – twins. One freezing night in 1920, Frieda and Wolfgang become parents to a set of twin boys, but when one twin dies, fate intervenes, and an unwanted baby is born, merely rooms away. Frieda raises them as brothers – twins in all but blood. It’s a line that truly does change everything, because Frieda and Wolfgang are Jewish, and the unwanted baby is German. As their world turns from a taboo Germany – poor, illustrious, and magical – to a Hitler-ruled WW2 Germany – violent, separated and racist – the family is forced to admit the truth that divides them.  

A sweeping saga, turbulent in more than 500 pages, the division and violence between Jews and Germans, are not the only hiccup Elton splatters on the page. He weaves the family together with one girl (the daughter of a rich Jewish family); Dagmar, the symbol of infatuation for the two boys (Paulus and Otto), and the maids daughter, Silke. The four grow-up throughout the most turbulent of Germany’s time. This leaves the reader clamouring as all begin to discover which side they truly belong on.

A tricky novel to review, with characters than demand equal time, flaws and retribution on the page; a richly-layered setting that sets more wheels in motion; to the dense emotion in Elton’s personal novel to-date. Hoisting history, character, human-nature, family, devotion and love on his shoulders that left me agreeing whole-heartedly with another reviewer (Zoe Hinis, The Book Armada): 

I would give this to my children one day as part of their reading, to help them understand the nature of the Nazi regime, in all of its howling, murderous insanity.

I hope you pick this up for more than just the history lesson...


(This was Exclusive Books's book of the month for March, follow my tag Boeke 2013 for more updates and reviews)
About the Author


Ben Elton is one of Britain's most provocative and entertaining writers. From celebrity to climate change, from the First World War to the end of the world, his books give his unique perspective on some of the most controversial topics of our time.

He has written twelve major bestsellers, including Stark, Popcorn, Inconceivable (filmed as Maybe Baby, which he also directed), Dead Famous, High Society (WH Smith People's Choice Award 2003) and The First Casualty.

He has also written some of television's most popular and incisive comedy, including The Young Ones, Blackadder and The Man From Auntie. His stage work includes three West End plays and the hit musicals The Beautiful Game and We Will Rock You.

He is married with three children.
Find the Author


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