Ben Elton - Two Brothers (4 stars)

The erstwhile comedian's Holocaust novel is his most honest and personal tale to date

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Ben Elton - Two Brothers

Infamously labelled worse than Osama bin Laden by Stewart Lee for his lack of moral scruples, Ben Elton now tells his most honest and personal tale to date. Two Brothers features Jewish twins growing up in pre-war Berlin, as Nazi tyranny reigns and a family secret forces a life-and-death decision, a story partly rooted in Elton’s own German-Jewish family history.

Otto and Paulus Stengel are raised unaware that one of them was adopted immediately after his natural twin died in childbirth in 1920. Driven by their shared love for beautiful Jewish heiress Dagmar, they fearlessly struggle to protect kith and kin, even as a dictatorship obsessed with racial purity tries to divide them.

Elton forces hard-to-believe wisdom and nobility on the Stengels, but the sprawling narrative whizzes onwards regardless. Two Brothers’ greatest achievement is in vividly capturing Germany’s infrequently-fictionalised lurch from the happy decadence of the Weimar Republic into the unchecked horrors of National Socialism.

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