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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Little bit of historical satire?
Two Brothers is a deeply moving, thought provoking look at life for a Jewish family in inter-war Germany. What makes this particular family different is that one of their twin boys has been adopted - and actually isn't Jewish. When the Nazis start to divide the country into 'true' Germans and 'others', the family find themselves faced with a terrible dilemma - which of...
Published 20 months ago by Maryom

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas but an average read.
I was given this book as a present and expected the worst. I'd liked most of Elton's early novels, but had stopped reading at Past Mortem, where he seemed to just be trying to satirise the latest trend and his writing was becoming cliched. His recent BBC1 sitcom also had me despairing, and the thought of a 500+ page novel by him on a weighty theme filled me with dread,...
Published 12 months ago by A. Moseley


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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Little bit of historical satire?, 12 Nov 2012
By 
Maryom (Derby, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
Two Brothers is a deeply moving, thought provoking look at life for a Jewish family in inter-war Germany. What makes this particular family different is that one of their twin boys has been adopted - and actually isn't Jewish. When the Nazis start to divide the country into 'true' Germans and 'others', the family find themselves faced with a terrible dilemma - which of their boys should be saved? It's a real page-turner, more serious than I would have expected from Ben Elton but not without its moments of bleak humour.
- and, in case you wondered, No it's not a little bit of political satire.
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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb novel that brings Berlin of the 1930s and 40s to terrifying life, 9 Nov 2012
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
It's 1920 and two baby boys are born in Berlin. Paulus and Otto are brothers, the twin sons of devoted and happy parents Frieda Stengel, a doctor, and her musician husband Wolfgang. As they grow, the two boys share everything in common except for one thing - blood. While this doesn't matter in the least to their family, as the years go by it starts to matter very much indeed. This is because on the same night that the boys are born, another life screams into existence in Berlin, the National Socialist German Workers Party, and Frieda and Wolfgang are Jewish. Over the next twenty years, each covered in compelling and heart wrenching detail in this fine novel, we watch as their human rights are eroded one by one until, finally, the brothers have to use all their wits to survive.

This isn't just the tale of Otto and Paulus, though. Two Brothers is an immensely rich and captivating portrayal of the lives of many of the family's friends, relatives and colleagues, some Jewish, some not Jewish, but all compelled to play a part in the Nazi hell that is consuming their country and city. The stories of Otto and Paulus are entwined completely with those of two girls: Silke,a Christian, and Dagmar Fischer, a rich Jewish girl. The four children form the Saturday Club. As they grow into teenagers and young adults, this Club takes on a whole new significance and the ties between them become lifelines.

Years ago I remember reading Ben Elton's novels (particularly Stark and Gridlock) while both enjoying and being irritated by his stand-up humour during those hard years in the 1980s. Any doubts as to the pathos and tragedy that Ben Elton can instil into his humour were dispelled by Blackadder. Those same qualities are perfected in Two Brothers. Ben Elton has always been loud and a strand of that can be detected in this novel in its rare melodramatic scenes. But, without doubt, those moments, and they are few and far between, are the only minor failings in this wonderful book.

Reading Two Brothers was an enthralling, painful, emotional and glorious experience. It makes no pretences. Info dumps are avoided, instead the history is revealed through the novel's stories and people, in the most involving way, bringing the history to life. Have no doubt, though. This book is full of historical details and is steeped in atmosphere.

I read Two Brothers in two days and I'll read it again. Without doubt, one of my very favourite novels of the year. I'm grateful for the review copy.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable., 26 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Kindle Edition)
This was a hard book to read but impossible to put down. Possibly because it was written in modern day English language rather than in a German accent, and maybe because like myself the lead characters came from a non religious Jewish family, I totally identified with them and suffered with them on every page. I shall be even more appreciative than usual tonight that my ancestors got out of Germany when they did.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkably Good Novel, 26 Nov 2012
By 
C. E. Utley "Charles Utley" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Kindle Edition)
I must start with a confession. I embarked on this book fearing I would find it tedious. I'm not sure why. My guess is that I had a sort of instinct that yet another novel about the appalling treatment of Jews in Germany in the thirties and during the war would be too bleak and depressing.

Of course, there is a lot to be depressed about in the book. It would not be possible to produce a remotely accurate book on this subject without its being depressing. But Elton understands that bleak subjects can only be borne by readers if humour is included. It may seem odd to someone who has not read this novel, but knows its subject matter, to be told that this reader sometimes laughed out loud when reading it.

And then there is the fact that this is a love story, even more than a story about the Holocaust. The relationship, from very early childhood, of Otto, Paulus, Dagmar and Silke is beautifully described. Each of those characters is extraordinarily well drawn. One adores each and becomes infuriated with each at regular intervals.

The jumps between the pre-war and war years on the one hand and the 1950s on the other work extremely well. Who is Stone, we ask ourselves for at least half of the book. And we give different answers at different stages. But we know we won't be sure until the answer is finally revealed.

Maybe it was hard of me to give the book only four, not five, stars. But I must explain my decision. And I acknowledge I may be quite wrong. It just seemed to me that the portrayal of ordinary German men and women was sometimes too cruel. Elton's account suggests that, almost overnight, pretty well every non-Jew German became a violent Jew-hater. Is it really possible that all Germans were as evil as he suggests? If he is right, the only conclusion one can draw is that there was something uniquely evil about the German people. In a way, of course, that would be quite an optimistic view to hold. So long as we keep a close eye on Germany, there can never be a repeat of the atrocities of the Third Reich. But I suspect things were not as black and white as Elton suggests they were.

There must have been a great many Germans who were horrified at what Hitler was doing (and they would not only have been communists like Silke). Some of them, we know, did what they could to help their Jewish compatriots. Most, inevitably, were too frightened. The one thing missing from this novel was any depiction, other than in passing, of decent, ordinary Germans who were appalled at what the Nazis were doing.

But I am being too fussy. This really is a masterpiece. It is a story of the most horrific period of modern European history. It is a sublime love story. It is also a gripping thriller. And, amazingly for a modern author, Elton understands that we sometimes need to laugh.

This novel, I confidently predict, will be read and enjoyed for many decades to come, maybe even for centuries.

Charles
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For me, a must read !!!, 25 Jan 2013
This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
When a book can take you back to that part of history, where it makes you think of the time,where you are feeling the time,it for me makes it a classic. So visual, so painful, yet so moving. When you've. Read a few books and start to get disgruntled, then finally a true read comes along it makes you feel refreshed.. Just please somebody,, turn it into a film. Such a critical part of history that all generations should still be taught..
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic story. Just brilliant., 24 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
I'm so glad I listened to the recommendation and read this book, it's not like the books I tend to read. For a start its the first thing I've read from Ben Elton, and I normally avoid books not set in the current day but this book has taken me on a journey that will stay with me for a very long time.

I loved Eltons writing style, I really felt the mood of the book and loved each character, the strength, their flaws and the emotion of them all. You can't fail to be moved by the harrowing treatment of the Jewish family in this story, made all the more emotive as it could so easily not be a work of fiction.

I laughed, I cried and I thoroughly lost myself in this story. Just brilliant. I won't hesitate to read some of his other novels. But now they have a lot to live up to.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas but an average read., 5 Aug 2013
By 
A. Moseley (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
I was given this book as a present and expected the worst. I'd liked most of Elton's early novels, but had stopped reading at Past Mortem, where he seemed to just be trying to satirise the latest trend and his writing was becoming cliched. His recent BBC1 sitcom also had me despairing, and the thought of a 500+ page novel by him on a weighty theme filled me with dread, even though I was hoping, as much for his sake as for mine, that this would be a book to prove his critics wrong.

As it is, this was a mixed bag of a book for me. The first 100 pages were slow going as you wait for a hint of a plot amongst all of the scene setting, and also despair about the dialogue which has so many words, expletives, and phrases that are completely out of place in the time period.

After that however, it got going and I was hooked. The depiction of the destruction of Germany and the persecution of Jews during the early years of Hitler's regime, were compelling reading, capturing the overall effect and taking it down to a very individual and human level. The parallel story set in 1956 was also intriguing, making me want to know what had happened to the Stengel family and the other members of the Saturday Club since the 1930s. Only the dialogue was still jarring, with Elton's attempts at West Indies dialogue coming across as particularly ill-conceived, unconvincing and frankly embarrasing. But aside from that, I now really wanted to read on.

Unfortunately, the last 150 or so pages were also a bit of a letdown. The two brothers obsession with one girl (Dagmar) and their willingness to do anything for her, including throw away their own lives, didn't really convince as there was nothing to make her seem like the sort of person people would do that for. Several other later revelations were too easy to guess at least 30 pages before they happened, and most importantly for me, towards the end of the book I began to feel that the more interesting story here was not that of the two brothers, but of Dagmar herself. The later chapters where her life story is revealed sound like there is a whole other novel that could have been written, as well as much of this one being re-written from her perspective.

So all in all, its a book that is a long way from being the embarrassment I thought it might be, but which could also be improved with more attention to getting the dialogue right, and more development of some of the other characters and storylines in it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best yet?, 27 Nov 2012
This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
I've read all of Ben Elton's books and thoroughly enjoyed them - whatever the subject matter, there's always a wry humour present. Two Brothers is somewhat different; although there is some humour, it's not as prominent and is overshadowed by the book's main theme, namely the events developing and unfolding in Berlin and Germany generally from 1920 through to the mid- 1950s and how they affect the brothers, their friends and their families and the population at large.

Ben Elton chronicles the rise of the Nazi party very effectively. Its use of the media of the day to disseminate misinformation about the Jews and to use them as scapegoats for Germany's dire situation following the First World War brings to mind what most likely happened in more recent times in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and currently the Middle East, where neighbours and friends are set against each other because of different faiths or origins and religious and humanitarian beliefs are distorted by governments to serve their own ends with little or no thought for the population at large. Additionally we're made aware of the exploitation of inexperienced youth to achieve a ruthless domination of a nation. The phrase, "I read/heard it in the media therefore it must be true", is one of which we should all be aware as an indicator of lack of awareness and diminished perception.

The book maintains the reader's interest throughout and provides much food for thought, even for those of us living in so called developed and civilized nations, so congratulations to Mr Elton for a book that informs and entertains but leaves one with a slightly uncomfortable feeling at its happier than expected ending.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Potentially interesting story, fatally let down by shockingly poor dialogue, 16 Oct 2013
By 
Christopher Ellicott (Bath, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Two Brothers (Paperback)
I'm afraid Ben Elton really should stick to comedy. He has no ability whatsoever to create convincing dialogue, and some of the dialogue is bordering on the embarrassing, reading at times like a children's book. I've given this two stars rather than one to reflect that the story is interesting and at times powerful, but it is hopelessly marred by the amateur attempts at making his characters live and breathe convincingly. I read it to the end, but cringed throughout. The character of Billy, the West Indian lover of one of the boys, is astonishingly bad and bordering on racist. Do we really need sentences like "Do'an give me dat! You wasn't doin' it fo' your dad, you was doin' it cos o' dis girl". Is this really the Ben Elton who was so 'right on' in the 1980s? How times have changed!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The 2.99 price is a sound warning., 20 Aug 2013
This review is from: Two Brothers (Paperback)
Ben Elton writes it himself: such a cliche (page 22).

Having heard many positive things about Ben Elton as an author, I wanted to enjoy this book. I had been certain this would suit me better than his humorous novels.

As other reviewers have noted, the dialogue is just atrocious. None of it flows naturally, it is far too modern, and it is too foul. It just does not seem appropriate that so many people from that era spoke in that way, and so casually.

Ben Elton makes the mistake that other historical novelists often make: they try to educate the reader by including details a period writer would not think to include, and by having characters slot historical facts or knowledge that became known after, often long after, events into their politically correct/incorrect talk.

As a comic Ben Elton tended to be rather repetitive, whether it be the themes he focused on, his delivery or the vocabulary he used, and he is guilty of the same here.

The most interesting part was the four page afterword that comes after the novel has ended. It shows that Ben Elton had an interesting tale to tell, and that his motives are sincere, but he lacked the writing ability and subtly to pull it off.
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Two Brothers
Two Brothers by Ben Elton (Paperback - 15 Aug 2013)
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