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Extended Audio Sample Two Lives, by Vikram Seth
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,487 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Vikram Seth Narrator: Vikram Seth Publisher: HarperAudio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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This is a heartrending new book, the story of a marriage and the story of two lives, from the author of the international best-selling 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. Download and start listening now!


Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Anusha | 2/19/2014

    " There are biographies and then there are memoirs, and then there is that which is an intriguing 'braid' of the two. Where the author is no longer an outsider in the screenplay of events, but himself a living and breathing character, adding a few sprinkles of salt and pepper to the concoction. Two Lives by Vikram Seth is one such piece, and flipping page after page of a beautiful tale of love, life, friends, fiends and a time marked by events so strong, that half a century is defined by them, you grow breathless reminding yourself that the author is not weaving a web of fantasy, but instead, this story is one that actually unfolded over 50 years, and that these characters actually were alive and so real. The Seths of Biswan open the memoir with a view into what their principles were, and for times as old as the early 20th century, they come across as a family that is savvier than the others you have read about, and actually hold education in high esteem, besides the fact that their women seem so independent, given the times. Dr. Shanti Seth, somewhat fortuitous in the pecking order, nevertheless, is a character of compassion, moral strength and kindness. This trait of his, accompanies him through the book, until just about the very end of his life. Henny Caro, the lady with scars from a time that unjustly descended on her family in the form of a dictator who would go on and be responsible for the lives of thousands of people in one of the central countries of Europe, is an interesting ice-maiden of sorts, until the author pleasantly unveils her caring, motherly side. These two pivotal characters of the book are as interesting in their actions, thoughts and words in white as well as in the shades of grey. And it is this greyness that makes the book so credible and possible to relate to. And it is done in true Seth style - philosophically, with tenderness and a wisdom beyond years thats always makes him a pleasure to read, where he reveals a little more of me to myself. The only part of the book I would not have minded changed, is the author's purported description of the brutalities of the German concentration camps and what Henny's family must have gone through. Other than an in-your-face-can't -avoid feeling of disgust for something that has been condemned to no end, the description serves little purpose in the book. Excerpts from the book: 'It is true that centuries are arbitrary units-determined, among other things, by the miscalculated date of birth of the founder of a religion and the number of fingers on our hands- but because we invest these units with spurious significance, they take on true significance. Shanti and Henny's lives were almost coeval with that arbitrary unit, the twentieth century. Both were born in 1908, Henny died in 1989 and Shanti in 1998. Many of the great currents and movements of the century are reflected through the events of their lives and those of their friends and family.I felt that a picture of those individual lives would be complemented by glimpses of their century,even if these glimpses were mediated by the opinion, perhaps opinionatedness, of the author. Indeed, the lens has also turned upon its wielder, for this book is memoir as well as biography.' 'Behind every door on every ordinary street, in every hut in very ordinary village o this middling planet of a trivial star, such riches are to be found. The strange journeys we undertake on our earthly pilgrimage, the joy and suffering we taste or confer, the chance events that cleave us together or apart, what a complex trace they leave: so personal as to be almost incommunicable, so fugitive as to be almost irrecoverable.' 'No one apart from the two parties concerned understands a marriage and what goes on in it and often enough, not even they. What is perfect? In a world with so much suffering, isolation and indifference, it is cause for gratitude if something is sufficiently good.' "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Laura | 2/18/2014

    " Like a boring conversation about a stranger's family history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Rinita | 2/11/2014

    " A beautiful and a moving love story during Hitler's regime, between a German girl who doesn't know english or hindi and an Indian boy (Vikram Seth's uncle) who learnt German for her. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ash | 2/10/2014

    " history through the eyes of two people brought together by events far beyond their control.. captures human life in a really simple and touching way.. i really enjoyed the book "

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