Two Lives

Two Lives

Book - 2005
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A heartrending new book -- the story of a marriageand the story of two lives -- from the author of theinternational bestselling novel A Suitable Boy

Shanti Behari Seth was born on the eighth day of the eighth month in the eighth year of the twentieth century; he died two years before its close. He was brought up in India in the apparently vigorous but dying Raj and was sent by his family in the 1930s to Berlin -- though he could not speak a word of German -- to study medicine and dentistry. It was here, before he migrated to Britain, that Shanti's path first crossed that of his future wife.

Helga Gerda Caro, known to everyone as "Henny" was also born in 1908, in Berlin, to a Jewish family -- cultured, patriotic, and intensely German. When the family decided to take Shanti as a lodger, Henny's first reaction was, "Don't take the black man!" But a friendship flowered, and when Henny fled Hitler's Germany for England just one month before war broke out, she was met at Victoria Station by the only person in the country she knew: Shanti.

Vikram Seth has woven together their astonishing story, which recounts the arrival into this childless couple's lives of their great-nephew from India -- the teenage student Vikram Seth. The result is an extraordinary tapestry of India, the Third Reich and the Second World War, Auschwitz and the Holocaust, Israel and Palestine, postwar Germany and 1970s Britain.

Two Lives is both a history of a violent century seen through the eyes of two survivors and an intimate portrait of their friendship, marriage, and abiding yet complex love. Part biography, part memoir, part meditation on our times, this is the true tale of two remarkable lives -- a masterful telling from one of our greatest living writers.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, c2005.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780060599669
Characteristics: 503 p., [24] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.


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Oct 07, 2015

Reading this book as a companion to TZW was a good choice. Part memoir, part biography of the author's Oxford years spent with his great aunt and uncle, part a memoir of this couple who met in Berlin in the 1930s and merged their disparate lives into a memorable partnership in London. It is memoir and a look at how the 20th century shaped a generation, much as it shaped my own parents.
This is my first reading of a book by this author although I’d certainly heard he was an amazing writer. Now, I can agree. By reading his aunt and uncle’s remarkable stories I thought of my own parents and extended family. How circumstances and changes as people grow older color what may be our earlier impressions. And how we have to step back and let go. There was wisdom in that for me. Thank you, Vikram Seth.

Jul 19, 2013

Vikram Seth introduces us to his mother's uncle, Shanti Uncle and his wife, Auntie Hennie when they are already elderly. He goes to live with them when he is seventeen and attending school in London. We follow their lives, both back in time and forward to their deaths, and learn something of their relationship to each other, to each other's family and friends, and to Vikram Seth himself. The second half is in many ways the more affecting in that we are privy to Vikram's deepening understanding, and at the same time bewilderment, at their relationship to each other and at the forces that drove their life decisions. To be included in the last days of his uncle and to share in Vikram's dismay at his uncle's deterioration is moving.

Jun 25, 2012

This could also be called "Three Lives", because Mr. Seth discloses a lot about his own life, as it was intertwined with the lives of his uncle and aunt, and their tragic and touching story.

May 19, 2010

Very well written biography. It is often difficult to write about someone whom you love a nd adore.
Well done job!
The historical review is good as well.


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