8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Quite honestly the best thing I ever read,
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This review is from: Two Brothers (Hardcover)
I've always been a fan of Ben Elton and his novels (bar Chart Throb) but this superb piece has trumped anything he's written previously and anything I've ever read. I have just completed this in 2 days such was the compelling page turning nature of the book. Set in 2 periods, primarily Berlin between the wars and London in 1956, the book flicks between the two times charting the events in the lives of the Stengel family, the Fischer family and the family of the fourth member of the Saturday club, Silke. The main premise is around the Stengel twins, one a natural born Jew, the other an adopted Jew joined to the Stengel family by both a tragedy at birth and a stroke of good fortune and extreme kindness. It then charts the struggles of the characters through 1930s Berlin as the society changes around them and they become pariahs as Germany succumbs to its brutal, cruel and misguided strong arm leadership. Elton builds the characters superbly, but colours the ambience of Berlin like a master painter,capturing the heady mix of sleaze and hedonism perfectly alongside the pragmatism and courage (sometimes rather stupid courage in Isaac Fischers case) of families seemingly barely aware of the impending peril bought on them by their faith. The London character of Paul Stone remains an enigmatic mystery until 75% of the novel has passed, even when that character lapses into an honourable but unwanted act of violence in a pub. I had genuine tears welling at the end, but even more so on reading Eltons own personal epilogue after the denouement of the novel, which in itself looks back into the novels events some 70 years previously. This is a serious book, light on humour, but it's a serious subject that opened my eyes to the events leading up to the power that became Nazi Germany. I'm sure there are many other non-fiction books that can relate this, as well as some fictional stories as well, and I may check them out, but only because Ben Elton made Otto and Paulus Stengel, Silke and Dagmar, Wolfgang and Frieda et al take my hand, my mind, heart and soul on a truly harrowing, sad, tragic and uplifting journey. Highly recommended reading and my cap is duly doffed towards Ben Elton for his magnum opus.