12 April, 2015

Book Review: Two Brothers

From GoodreadsTwo Brothers is a heartrending story of two boys growing up under the darkening shadow of the Nazis. Born in Berlin in 1920 and raised by the same parents, one boy is Jewish, his adopted brother is Aryan. At first, their origins are irrelevant. But as the political landscape changes they are forced to make decisions with horrifying consequences.

Thoughts: This is my book group read for the month and since book group is today I thought I should get the review up! I chose this book for the group and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.
This is not the normal book you would expect from Ben Elton. No satire, no playing it for laughs, this is straight down the line serious. And so it should be. The subject matter as always is confronting and almost unbelievable. 
Otto and Paulus are born on the same day as the German Socialist Workers Party, better known as the Nazi's. Through out the boys lives, Elton comments on what the Nazi party is doing at the same age. He takes attributes of that age and weaves it into the behaviour of the party, describing the party as  a squalling baby to start,a tantruming toddler at about 3 years old and a surly, psychopathic teenager.
The twins however are not biological. One has been adopted, although it's not until much later in the book you know which one. And just like the time it was set in, to start with it didn't really matter. 
Elton paints a picture of Germany between the wars and gives the reader a view into the state it was in when Hitler came to power. That background allows the reader to understand how the Nazi's came to power and how they were allowed to strip away the rights of a whole section of the community with little to no protest. 
The boys form a friendship with a the daughter of a wealthy Jewish business man and the daughter of their nanny/ maid. This group of four and how they survive the war years becomes the basis of the second half of the book. It was here that I really started to get into the book. Watching how it played out, how the situations of the four shifted and changed and how they worked together (mostly) to try and ensure they all survived. The characters were strong and believable. Dagmar and Silke's animosity as they both developed feelings for the boys and the boys total blindness to all but Dagmar. Dagmar herself was an interesting and complex character who turned out to be more than I thought.
Elton weaves all aspects of this story together, keeping it tight, right until the end. The end game is astounding and heartbreaking for many reasons. At the end you step back to take in the whole picture and see how clever Elton was.
As with any book about Nazi Germany, Two Brothers is confronting at times. I still believe it is so important we continue to read and write about this time - may it never happen again.

Two Brothers gets 4 stars

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it
*****   It was amazing