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Two Brothers

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  4,764 Ratings  ·  680 Reviews
The new novel from this well-loved, bestselling author.

Two 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 wi
Hardcover, 424 pages
Published November 8th 2012 by Bantam Press (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 06, 2014 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Ah, Ben Elton you certainly know how to tug at my heart strings. My fascination with WW2 is so great that of course this is a book I was going to have to read, especially after hearing such great things about it from the publisher's rep.

A Jewish couple have a baby and adopt a German boy who was born on the very same day. Fast forward 15 or so years later when the purge of Jewish blood is being carried out ripping the family and the "twins" apart. Add into this the knowledge we get in the first f
David Lowther
Dec 10, 2012 David Lowther rated it it was amazing
There are many novels set in pre-war Berlin but none quite so effective as Ben Elton's Two Brothers. As the title suggests, the author uses the childhood and adolescent lives of two Jewish brothers to tell the story of happiness followed by despair and finally tragedy. The brothers themselves form a Saturday club with the daughter of a wealthy Jewish department store owner and the daughter of the brothers' family cleaner.

The early years are happy and often funny but as each member of the club en
Adele Mitchell
At 2:00 today I was on page 102 & at 8:10pm I have finished it, could not stop reading it. I implore you to read this book, the story will tug at your heart strings & even bring you to tears.
This could be my favourite book I have read all year
Utterly gripping from the start, this story of two boys born on the same day in pre war Berlin, is a tour de force.
The boys, destined to become twins via a secret adoption of one of the boys at birth, grow from children to adult soldiers, born to Wolfgang, a musician in the heady Berlin nightclub scene, and Freida , a doctor - a Jewish family living a simple life.
Until Hitler came to power. Slowly , the author builds the feelings of abject terror and menace that the Jews endured on a daily bas
Martin Waterhouse
Jan 19, 2013 Martin Waterhouse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-books
This is an astonishingly good book: wonderfully written, craftily crafted and beautifully brutal. Firstly, that whole interwar period of the 1920's and 30's (especially in Germany) has always been a bit of a black hole for me, as history lessons in school were dominated by the World Wars, but here Ben Elton brings the Weimar Republic to life, with its extremes of poverty, decadence, violence and jazz. Secondly, it's also always been incomprehensible to me how the German public allowed the 'Final ...more
Jan 16, 2013 rubywednesday rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Had the beginning of this novel not been so overwrought, I would have liked it much better.

I really struggled to get through the first third or so. It was meandering and the writing felt off to me.
Once the focus really shifted to the Stengel twins it became much better. The depiction of Germany in the pre-war years was poignant and insightful powerful. I grew to care for the characters (except for Dagmar, never liked her or bought the boys fascination with her) and was invested in seeing their
Katie Barrowman
Jan 12, 2013 Katie Barrowman rated it it was amazing
I always look forward to a new Ben Elton novel. Often, the premise is stretched, the characters less than believable, and the writing slightly too in-your-face, but they're always, in the end, an enjoyable read, especially when the author wanders into the realms of speculative fiction. However, when it comes to the historical novel (going by this and 2005's excellent 'The First Casualty', and perhaps even 'Blackadder Goes Forth') Elton transcends his other work.

This novel evokes twenties and th
Jan 25, 2013 Londondailyphoto rated it it was amazing
Just finished Ben Elton, Two Brothers. I should say first that I have enjoyed all Ben Elton's writing but I would observe I hope objecively that the quality of his writing has improved over the years, this book is possibly his best yet.

Weaving biographical and historical detail into a story focused around the personal lives of those in Germany growing up through the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany, it made me realise how little I knew of the internal aspects of Nazi Germany. I would have consid
Feb 04, 2013 Tanya rated it it was amazing
This book should be added to the school curriculum. It's amazing - a totally human story of how normal life is changed by evil. It's different to other accounts of being Jewish in the Third Reich but I can't quite put my finger on why... I think it's the way they author writes (I'm a fan of Ben Elton's anyway but this is the first 'serious' book I've read by him). I think it's so readable because nothing is overplayed; not the tragedy, not the emotion, not the lunacy and not the 'normality'. And ...more
Mar 02, 2014 Annaleise rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I am disappointed with Two Brothers. The premise of the story sounded really interesting from an historical point of view, and the characters seemed to have so much potential. But the reality was just plain awkward.

None of the characters stood out from one another, they actually became difficult to differentiate between. The language seemed forced, over-the-top and Americanized a lot of the time, not at all what you might expect from Germany in the 1920's through 1950's. I also didn't get the bo
A very enjoyable read. The storyline was interesting and had me gripped throughout. I loved the authors style of writing. A great work of historical fiction.
I really, really wanted to like this book. But unfortunately I just found it to be a bit of a mess all round, and I can't bring myself to give it more than around 2.5 stars.

Longer review to come -- I just didn't want to ruin it for my book club people by pointing out all its faults.


Okay so the lecture I'm watching online is boring me, hence I decided to finish my review. Unfortunately, I had quite a few problems with Two Brothers. Firstly, the first half of the book moved extremely slowly. An
Jul 20, 2013 VaultOfBooks rated it really liked it
By Ben Elton. Grade: A

When one is confronted by a good book that one is in a real dilemma. How to rate its merits and demerits? Should one go back to basics taught eons ago in undergraduate courses or just follow the trends in numerous sites proclaiming to know what is right? I have tried to do a balancing act.
The book, like so many modern books, does not have a linear narrative. It jumps between the 1920s Germany and the 1950s London. The theme suits the style admirably well. We start at the be
Michael Garrett
Jul 30, 2013 Michael Garrett rated it really liked it
The story, partly retold from 1956, is set in Berlin from the early 1920s up to and including its occupation by the Allied Forces in May 1945. The overview is from the perspective of two "twin" brothers and their dearest friend, Dagmar. As the story unfolds the reader is drawn into the close and often tense intra-relationship between the three central characters and the inter-relationship of this close group and that of their immediate families, community, city and ultimately the government.
Sep 16, 2013 Margaret rated it it was amazing
Having never read anything by Ben Elton before I was drawn to this book by the subject. Two brothers born in 1920 to Jewish parents in Berlin, also the birth of Hitlers party.
It was an incredibly well written book, Elton had obviously done thorough research. the characters where very believable. One of the descriptions was of the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936. Elton described the event so well that you could feel the thunder of Heil Hitler as Hitler took his place in the stand. From this I di
Oct 21, 2013 Andrea rated it it was ok
Awful dialogue. Poor characterisation. The first and last Ben Elton book that I will read!
Dec 03, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-fiction
Ben Elton has written some very good lines. The Young Ones and Blackadder alone would be enough to have made him a screen writing legend. When he added the musical We Will Rock You and a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera to his accomplishments, most would have self-satisfactorily called it a day. He has also written some novels, which I have studiously avoided as someone who often judges books by their covers.

If I had been asked to name the author of Two Brothers having read it without any know
Alexander Rodionov
Dec 17, 2013 Alexander Rodionov rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading Two Brothers. And I am sure that everybody who loves theme of Holocaust, World War II and who is big fan of Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, will love it. Ben Elton managed to show life of Jewish family during 30th years very detailed and realistic. But most of all I liked the ending! Very surprising! I loved it.
Alex Brantham
Feb 02, 2014 Alex Brantham rated it it was ok
It's described as his "most personal novel to date", and maybe that's the problem. This is a frankly dreadful novel. The basic premise - two brothers living a complex life through WW2 - is fair enough.

But Ben Elton's usual problem in real life is that he doesn't know when to stop preaching (it was always the weakness of his stand-up comedy) and in this book, he tells us that the Nazis were bad. Then he tells us that they were very bad. They did bad things. And did you know that they were bad?

Serjeant Wildgoose
OK, lets be honest, this book does not know who its target audience is.

The style is so yoof it can only surely be intended for so-called young adults, indeed I only read it because I wanted a copy for my 16-year old's Christmas stocking and over the space of 2 shopping trips ended up with 2 copies.

I've led a far from sheltered life, but frankly if this is a book for young adults, there's a few too many 'c*nts' and 'f*cks' peppering its pages to make me comfortable in handing it over.

In appealing
Jonathan Young
Mar 14, 2014 Jonathan Young rated it liked it
As ever with Ben Elton's books, this is a quick, easy read despite it dealing with the most unpleasant period of recent history. It's not fantastically well written but I do think he's improved. The characters are a bit thin and one dimensional but the plot bounces along and it is quite hard to put down. The only thing that I found myself objecting to was that there seemed to be no decent, ordinary German citizens in the story at all. I assume that during WWII, many Germans went along with the d ...more
Jun 15, 2015 Bev rated it it was amazing
So, I’m not giving anything away if I say the book is about two brothers. They are born at the same time as the Nazi party in Germany. The book follows their lives and loves and weaves a wonderful tale of childhood fun, romance and then war. My husband reads more war stories than me, so I’ll quote him here: “Where the book earns its accolades is how it provides insight into the workings of the national psyche in Germany over this tumultuous time. How does a nation slowly turn on the Jewish peopl ...more
Sara Wyatt
Jul 29, 2014 Sara Wyatt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I feel like this book was a huge disappointment on the whole. I had had it on my shelf for over a year — as ironic as it may sound, I bought it while on vacation in Munich —and the thing is, I've been dying to read it for months. I saw it as a really promising book — but it just turned out as a disappointment in the end.

Don't get me wrong, I tried quite hard to enjoy this book. I really did. It looked quite nice at first, with the Stengel parents' backstory and all — I really liked both Frieda a
Viviane Cordeiro
Sep 29, 2014 Viviane Cordeiro rated it liked it
Ive been reading WWII fiction for as long as I can remember, so we can say that my standards are fairly high - I'm not an specialist or whatever, but after a while you need to feel the history flooding through the book, otherwise it won't wotk out. However, it took me a couple of hours to write this review (and do it properly!), I've also read other reviews on GR just to have a better feeling, but I just can't...
It was a great story and background (pre-WWII Berlin is a hell of a background!) but
Mar 09, 2015 Bobbie rated it did not like it
To be honest I was thoroughly disappointed with this novel after hearing so many positive reviews for it. Characters, themes of the book, and the plot itself were really quite a big let down.

I'll explain and breakdown my main issues with this book below(Spoiler Warning)

1.) Obsession with attractiveness and Dagmar: Easily my biggest issue with this novel is it's constant repetitiveness, Elton obviously holds attractiveness in high regard because I read about it in every other chapter. Don't get m
Feb 06, 2015 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
S.P. Moss
Mar 17, 2015 S.P. Moss rated it did not like it
I can see that this book has had lots of positive reviews, and I know that Ben Elton has plenty of fans, so I appreciate that I am in the minority with a one-star review. I will try and explain my reasons for my rating.

On the positive side, the idea behind the story is a good one. We often hear of twins separated at birth, but what about twins united at birth? Especially if these twins are born on the same day as the Nazi party got its name. The idea immediately raises intriguing questions of na
Melissa Delport
Jun 05, 2016 Melissa Delport rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd give this book 10 stars if I could! What an amazing, amazing story. And the tension! I spent half the book wondering who Stone was (Otto or Paulus) and when I finally found out I spent the other half of the book wondering what had happened to the other! My heart bled for Frieda, so courageous and kind, and even more so for Wolfgang, ironically, because the more pitiful he became the more I remembered how he lived before - so carefree and full of life.
There is nothing I can say about Dagmar
Nov 21, 2015 Jacqui rated it it was amazing
‘If it’s got the Brandenburg Gate on the cover, it’s guaranteed to be a good read.’ This throwaway comment, made by me when the book was given to me as a book group read, turned out to be spot-on, and this book is a firm contender for the best book I have read in 2015.

A couple of years ago, I read ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes’, by Edmund de Waal, the true story of the fate of his Jewish ancestors at the hands of the Nazis, and am still haunted by the book. While Ben Elton’s book is a work of fictio
Roberta Perez
Sep 27, 2016 Roberta Perez rated it it was amazing
Fantastico! Compreender a Segunda Guerra Mundial e o por que de tanto ódio gratuito. Este livro narra a historia de uma família com dois filhos gêmeos nascidos no mesmo dia do partido Nazista na Berlim cheia de problemas, economia fragilizada entre ricos e pobres. Momento não poderia ser mais oportuno para os devaneios de Hitler. A vida desses dois irmão se desenvolve assim como o Partido de Hitler. Mais um livro sobre a II Guerra Mundial, mas para este eu aplaudo em pé!

Obrigada Mara pelo delici
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Ben Elton was born on 3 May 1959, in Catford, South London. The youngest of four, he went to Godalming Grammar school, joined amateur dramatic societies and wrote his first play at 15. He wanted to be a stagehand at the local theatre, but instead did A-Level Theatre Studies and studied drama at Manchester University in 1977.

His career as both performer and writer encompasses some of the most memo
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“What the matter wit’ your momma? She only know one name?’ Stone” 1 likes
“And through all that dreadful darkness she had remembered him. He who loved her. He who still loved her. Who would always love her.” 1 likes
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