SamMarie's Reviews > Two Lives

Two Lives by Vikram Seth
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Jun 29, 11

Read from March 30 to May 03, 2011

There was something so raw and delightful about the rich tapestry of letters in Two Lives. The early letters between Shanti and Henny were beautifully intimate and elegant. While I enjoyed the stories of Shanti's life and particularly the wisdom and humour in some of the first hand interviews, it was the trove of Henny’s letters that was my favourite section of the book. I poured over the raft of letters between Henny and her friends and acquaintances. They really brought home that living through an experience like this not only changes your life, but also those of your friends and your family forever. Would Shanti and Henny have come together, if it was not for these events? Was Henny’s connection and common ground with Shanti strong enough to truly have made her happy? I wonder how much she would have yearned for a larger life, a more passionate life – or whether the relative simplicity of companionship, friendship and the normality that routine gave, helped her suffering and ultimately fulfilled her.

What did I take from the story? It was one that stayed with me long after reading and I kept reflecting - my close friends are from different countries, religions, sexes, ages and political persuasions. Will we, in our lifetimes ever have to face the test of true friendship? If the world descended into complete chaos, would I stand up to be counted? Are my beliefs strong enough to die for? Would I fight for others’ causes? Would I turn on someone? Who would turn on me?

After the telling of such a compelling and intricate tale, Seth’s ending frustrated me. I understand that for Seth and his family, Shanti’s last actions were heartbreaking, but for me, the last section detracted from the fuller life story of two people. Yes, our lives will all come to an end - but hopefully we are remembered for all that we were, rather than one last thing that we did. All in all, Two Lives was an amazing story - one worth reading.
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