Customer Review

49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkably Good Novel, 26 Nov 2012
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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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Nov 2012 18:19:26 GMT
Steven says:
a great review again Charles-- I've come across a number of your reviews now and find them to be excellent.
thank you :)

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Nov 2012 18:43:46 GMT
C. E. Utley says:
Thank you very much.

Charles

Posted on 5 May 2014 22:15:48 BDT
Naj says:
Not sure why you were guessing through half the book who stone was; he tells us his real surname in the first chapter of 1956. Unfortunately I couldn't get on with this book and I had been looking forward to reading it.
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