A heartrending new book -- the story of a marriage and
the story of two lives -- from the author of the international 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
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:
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.
The Washington Post
Admirers of Seth's prose, among whom I certainly count myself, will find much in here that meets their hopes and expectations.
A subtle portrait of the complexities of a long companionship . . . A wonderful book.
Christian Science Monitor
Engaging new memoir... Even as you enjoy one [story], you discover another within.
New York Times Book Review - Pankaj Mishra
Sensitive and compassionate... Fulfills the obligation Primo Levi once defined for writers on the Holocaust: it is unadorned and clear.
Library Journal - Mark Alan Williams
His writing is engaging and his characters fully developed and quickly familiar. Highly recommended
Seth turns biography into powerful literature, distilling the universal human emotions of passion, grief and the will to survive.
Something extraordinary... A thoughtful, engrossing narrative... This remarkable book offers rich rewards.
[A] beautiful, loving, clear-eyed book... Translucent, telling prose.
The New York Times - William Grimes
In Shanti, Mr. Seth has top-grade material. His great-uncle was a splendid raconteur with a wealth of opinions and a lively turn of phrase (on full display in his scolding of an R.A.F. officer on the topic of British colonialism) ... Mr. Seth draws a loving, vivid portrait of his great-uncle, and the reader, like Mr. Seth, is reluctant to let him go when he finally dies at the age of 89.
Starred Review. Seth's voice is a fluent, graceful and compassionate one, and the story he tells-in a sense, it's every family's story-should have irresistible appeal. Another triumph for one of the most versatile and engaging of all contemporary writers.
Starred Review. This lovely book, "memoir as well as biography," examines great and fearful events seen through extraordinary lives. In clear and elegant writing, Seth explores the macrocosm through the microcosm, resulting in a most unusual, worthwhile book.
Booklist - Brad Hooper
This beautiful book delivers a passionate answer to a more personal but timeless question of human relations: How do two people ever manage to end up together?
I cannot remember ever being quite so moved by a memoir... [Seth's] achievement has exceeded all possible expectations.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder Well worth reading Two Lives is a memoir written by international best-selling author, Vikram Seth. In this interesting and engaging book, Seth writes about his great uncle Shanti Behari Seth (Shanti Uncle), born in Biswan, and his German Jewish great aunt, Hennerle... Read More
Rated of 5
by Begum Two lives, one writer Vikram Seth is genius in writing and making us face the bitter facts of life as well as pleasant ones. As he writes the two lives of his uncle and aunt, he also makes us realize and feel the real important things of life: true friendship, love,... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kate A well-researched memoir/biography Though not exactly a page-turner for me, I became gradually absorbed by the book the more I read because of my appreciation of Vikram Seth's thorough research into the background and lives of his aunt and uncle. He spares no details and the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Junaid Mir Vikram Seth's Style Austere, that is the word that I feel aptly describes Seth's style. All the quality authors I have read nobody comes anywhere near to him in the simplicity levels of his writing.
Anybody who relates reading to an experience of sipping a glass of... Read More
Vikram Seth was born in India and educated there and in
England, California, and China. He has written acclaimed books in several
genres: verse novel, The Golden Gate; travel book, From Heaven
Lake; animal fables, Beastly Tales; epic novel, A Suitable Boy,
and a couple of books for children.
Novels The Golden Gate (1986) A Suitable Boy (1993) An Equal Music (1999)
Poetry Mappings (1981) Humble Administrator's Garden (1985) All You Who Sleep Tonight (1990) Beastly Tales (1991) Three Chinese Poets (1992)
Non-Fiction From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang And Tibet (1983) Two Lives (2005)
A moving, realistic, but always hopeful narrative novel of the Wu family - father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao - as they fully sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begin a new, free life in the United States.
The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator. This is the remarkable story of the events surrounding this transition.
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