TWO LIVES tells the remarkable story of Seth's great uncle and aunt. His great uncle Shanti left India for medical school in Berlin in the 1930s and lodged with a German Jewish family. In the household was a daughter, Henny, who urged her mother 'not to take the blackie'. But a friendship developed and each managed to leave Germany and found their way to Britain as the Nazis rose to power. Shanti joined the army and lost his right arm at the battle of Monte Cassino, while Henny (whose family were to die in the camps) made a life for herself in her adopted country. After the war they married and lived the emigre life in north London where Shanti, despite the loss of his arm, became a much-loved dentist. During his own adolescence in England, Vikram Seth lived with Shanti and Henny and came to know and love them deeply. His is the third life in this story of TWO LIVES. This is also a book about history, encompassing as it does many of the most significant themes and events in the 20th century, whose currents are reflected in the lives of Shanti, Henny and their family: from the Raj and the Indian freedom movement to the Third Reich, the Holocaust and British postwar society.
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'This is an accomplished and profoundly moving work' DAILY TELEGRAPH 'Written as an act of love and duty it is a testament to his modesty and familial affection.' SUNDAT TIMES 'A fascinating and honest read.' TRIBUNE 'Seth is a thorough biographer, but his considerable narrative skill is as evident here as it is in his fiction... One of the beauties of TWO LIVES is that it transcends its subject matter, becoming a celebration of endurance, a recognition of all lives punctured by war and genocide.' SUNDAY BUSINESS POST 'It is [Seth's] ability and willingness to act as a vehicle for events both personal and historic that make this such a wonderful book.' ECONOMIST 'luminously painstaking... Such are the layers beneath layers of human existence that this immensely thoughtful book reveals. But what other familial layers, one wonders, are still lying there waiting to be disinterred by the gentle but implacable chronicler, and into what other forms of literary exposure will his own life lead him?' LITERARY REVIEW 'This is a life-enhancing and moving love story of two ordinary yet exceptional people.' WATERSTONE'S BOOK QUARTERLY '[A] moving tribute.' YOU 'Intriguing... The unexpected fascination lies in Henny's correspondance with acquaintances in Berlin in the 1940s.' PSYCHOLOGIES 'Highly praised and deservedly so... unforgettable.' SUNDAY EXPRESS 'The detailed insight into their lives and times, the pertinent and revealing minutae Seth weaves into this Persian carpet of a biography, make reading it by turns a pleasurable and astonishing experience.' IRISH TIMES 'Truly unforgettable... moving and illuminating' THE TIMES 'TWO LIVES has about it a purity of intent and a goodness of heart that are rare in modern literature...no one could read this book without feeling moved by these two human beings, and their struggle against the forces of history' MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Seth's prose...is assured and never sentimental, gently quizzical, its surface sufficiently permeable to let true feeling through' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
About Vikram Seth
Vikram Seth was born in India. He was educated there and in England, China and the USA. He has written great books in every genre: verse novel (THE GOLDEN GATE); travel book (FROM HEAVEN LAKE winner Thomas Cook Travel Book Award); epic masterpiece (A SUIT
Two Lives by Vikram Seth
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