Two Brothers by Ben Elton

Two Brothers by Ben Elton

Two Brothers by Ben Elton

I very much enjoyed Ben Elton’s latest novel in my summer reading package this year.  Two Brothers is the account of the Stengel family; Berlin Jews who try to make their way through the unfortunate events of the 1920’s – 1940’s.  The two brothers find themselves on different sides of the racial issue through their own manipulations, bravery and cleverness.  It is a tough read that is made easier by the courage and resilience of the main characters.  You can look elsewhere on the web for a synopsis (I don’t want to take the ‘fun’ away), but it is enough to say that the cast of strong characters in an appalling environment provide a convincing counter to the spurious argument that the Jews did not resist the Nazi-instituted hate as much as they could have.  The boys’ mother Frieda is amazing and at the end profoundly brave.  The character with the most flaws is the beautiful and manipulative Dagmar Fischer… the extent she goes to survive is testament to her audacity and sheds light on the profound and sacrificial nature of the devotion and courage of the Stengel family.  The novel is an enlightening insight into the contrasting ways that humans respond in crisis… it brings out the best in some and the worst in others.
Elton is a great storyteller and this is among his best and most creative.  For me, his novels based around wars – this and The First Casualty are his best.  Interestingly he dedicates the novel to his uncles Heinz and Geoffrey – both who served in WWII on different sides.

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