Two Lives, by Vikram Seth…I give it Five Stars!!
This beautifully written memoir is one that you will remember, long after you have finished the last word, on the last page. It is one of those memoirs that stay in your heart, in your mind, for a long time.
“When I was seventeen I went to live with my great-uncle and great-aunt in England. He was an Indian by origin, she German. They were both sixty. I hardly knew them at the time.”
And, with these opening lines begins the journey through the lives of Shanti Behari Seth, Helga Gerda Karo, and, the author, Vikram Seth, which culminates in an emotional ending. Vikram Seth, chronicles the lives of his great-uncle and great-aunt, with exacting details, which some might find over-reacting, or over-zealous in his endeavors. But, we must remember, this is a memoir, a factual story of lives, and all the details need to be relayed and interwoven into the family fabric, the family quilt of their lifespans. This is not a novel, or fictionalized account, but, rather an actual documentation of their lives.
We watch the friendship and love grow between Shanti, who was born in India, and studied dentistry and medicine in Berlin; and Helga, a German Jew. Two very different cultures, and two lives, lives which receded and ebbed within The Holocaust, Auschwitz and Israel, in an ocean of torment, hate, persecution, and, love. From 1908 India, to 1908 Germany, and the years that follow, in a Germany ruled by Hitler, we follow the journey of Shanti and Helga, to England, and also the journey of the author, Vikram Seth, into the lives of this childless couple.
These two lives couldn’t have been more different, yet more alike, than either of them could have imagined…overcoming racial and ethnic hatred, and genocide, their lives become fulfilled and realized, with the inclusion of Vikram Seth into their family. This is a memoir weaved from cultural threads, threads of understanding and love, woven into a quilt of unconditional love, compassion and the overcoming of adversity.
It is a must read for everyone who is interested in World War II, The Holocaust, India, England, and a love that crosses all the cultural boundaries. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.
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