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Two Lives by Vikram Seth - A novel with the markings of a movie

Written by: Suba Subramanium


Book cover
Two Lives by Vikram Seth - A novel with the markings of a movie


"In recent years, there have been countless memoirs based on family papers, yetfew are as moving and illuminating as Two Lives." - The London Times

With that review here’s all about Vikram Seth’s Two Lives.

To start with, Vikram Seth is an Indian born author with many popular novels to his credit.An Equal Music and A suitable Boy are two of his well-known novels.

Vikram Seth's Two Lives is a biography, a memoir, a novel and a collection of lettersspun into one grand novel. The backdrop it covers includes India, Germany, England andAmerica and the extent includes most of the twentieth century.

Shanti, an Indian Hindu, comes to Berlin, Germany in the beginning of 1930s to studyDentistry. He befriends both Christians and Jews and Henny, his landlady's daughter,becomes his good friend. After finishing his studies, Shanti returns to England, where hisdegrees are not recognized, and he takes exams again. He enlists and fights in the SecondWorld War, loses his right arm but continues to battle with his left hand to become a gifteddentist again.

Henny parts from her family and makes her escape to London. Throughout 1940s she bearsthe news of one killing after another. Henny corresponds with Shanti who is fighting in theWar. Vikram Seth uses these letters in this book which is a telling tale of what millions ofJews suffered through the 1940s and thereafter. Henny meanwhile works her daytime job,and in beginning of 1950s marries her lifetime friend and companion Shanti.

Henny and Shanti are two lives in focus here. Their lives are inspirational, lived during timesof war, desolation, death, separation, and treachery. Through their life stories one comesface to face some of the greatest horrors of the previous century. The World War II andaction against Jews feature as the backdrop in which the valor of the protagonists and thedepth and sincerity of friendships they had with people is tested.

The historical perspective provided by Vikram is well researched. The story puts you face toface with not only the pre-1950 horrors, but also raises some important questions about thepresent day world.

In certain places, the book turns auto-biographical. In the beginning of the story, ateenager, great-nephew Vikram Seth arrives at the house of Shanti and Henny. He sets uphis personal association with the two lives in his characteristic witty, simple but effectivewriting.

Seth’s narrative weaves a heart-wrenching description of Berlin through racial hatred,through bombing, and through division after the war.

A novel with the markings of a movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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