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74 of 81 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
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...
Published on 9 Nov 2012 by Kate

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good yarn but could be better.
Having read Ben Elton's book, The First Casualty, I was looking forward to Two Brothers. I found the book really gripping and read it in record time, however I have several comments to make. First, I found that he gave away much of the plot in the first few pages, this was a pity as the story would have been much more gripping if he had written the story in...
Published 4 months ago by Mike.M


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74 of 81 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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82 of 90 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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53 of 60 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
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good yarn but could be better., 21 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
Having read Ben Elton's book, The First Casualty, I was looking forward to Two Brothers. I found the book really gripping and read it in record time, however I have several comments to make. First, I found that he gave away much of the plot in the first few pages, this was a pity as the story would have been much more gripping if he had written the story in chronological order. Second, The story ends rather abruptly tying up the loose ends inside a few pages. I have found many writers do this giving me the impression that they have got tired of writing the book in hand and want to finish it quickly in order to set about the next project. Third, I did not check out the 'facts' given as background and assume they are correct, eg 71 Jews killed in Berlin on Kristallnacht, I would have found footnotes on such items interesting. Finally I found the language of the boys in the book unconvincing, such phrases as Blimey do just not exist in the german language, even more unacceptable are the frequent use of English swarewords, the F word was used rarely in England in those days, the german equivalent is not used at all, german swaring being rather more lavatorial. The boys are supposed to have been brought up in a household where the mother is a doctor, so crude language at that time would only really be used by the most uneducated people. If one can ignore this transgression, the book makes a very exciting story - I loved reading it but it could have been much better.
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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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15 of 17 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, touching, brings the horror of the time to life, 23 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Kindle Edition)
There are a plethora of books and essays that try to bring to life conditions for the Jewish community in Europe as the horrors of the Holocaust unfolded bit by painful bit in the thirties and forties. Very few of these accounts achieve what Ben Elton has achieved here, weaving day to day accounts of adaptation & survival (albeit fictional) in Nazi Berlin around a very engaging narrative that never shies from the horror of the time. The way that Ben Elton shows that horror unfolding through the eyes of children, to sense and feel the despair being ratcheted slowly while they go about their childhood lives, is to feel what it must have been like to have been there. No other book on the subject has touched me in quite the same way. That said, it is a real page turner too - the love story weaved in and around the struggle for survival and escape is intriguing and the flashbacks from a later period add a sense of mystery as you wonder who had survived it all.
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Brothers, 21 Nov 2014
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Paperback)
I am not a fan of Ben Elton and when I realised the book I had bought was written by him I wasn't sure if I would like it or even be bothered to read it. I was very surprised, the book was brilliant, set in pre war Germany and throughout the war this is the story of two brothers, Otto and Paulus and through an incident at birth one German and one Jewish, but these were brothers and they loved and fought for each other. These brothers saw themselves as both Jewish and proud of the fact, the book takes us through the atrocities commited against the Jewish people in Germany at that time and the relentless struggle for survival that sees one child forced to join the SS and the others escape to England. Without disclosing any more of the plot I suggest taking the time to read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what a read, 23 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Kindle Edition)
Great book, best I have read for a long time, a page turner. This is the second Ben Elton book I have read it will not be the last.
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Two Brothers
Two Brothers by Ben Elton (Paperback - 15 Aug 2013)
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