Top positive review
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Probably the most vivid evocation of what it was like to be in the Berlin of the 1930s
on 22 January 2013
Based on his own family history Ben Elton has created a novel that engages, entertains, disturbs and informs all at once. The book spans 25 years as it flicks between cold war Britain of the mid 50s and Berlin from the Weimar republic to the fall of the Nazis. He tells the story of two boys growing up together, one an adopted non-Jew the other the natural son of their Jewish parents. As far as they are concerned they are brothers. When the Nazis achieve power this becomes increasingly untenable forcing a series of decisions upon them that will reshape their lives. This is also about the decadence of Berlin in the 1920s, young love, human dignity and the will to survive against all the odds. In telling this story Ben Elton uses humour and sparkling dialogue to create a vivid sense of reality and the shear helplessness of people in the face of a monstrous regime. Each time life is made more impossible for Jews (and others) Elton expresses their bewilderment with the mantra 'well what more can they do to us?'
There is a good deal of personal family history in this book. More than once Elton expresses his feelings for Britain and the British through his characters as they avow their love for a country that has taken them in and given them new lives. He also has a powerful message, also delivered through his characters, hate thrives because of what people fail to do in the face of it rather than the actions of those who harbour it. It may make you less tolerant of people who think racism of any sort can be acceptable.