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My Brother the Enemy Paperback – May 15, 2014
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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"I enjoyed this book. Well written and with a very strong ending." Alex Gerlis, author of The Best of Our Spies and The Swiss Spy.
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Then, the novel takes the reader back in time to when the three were youngsters. It follows them through their formative years, the development of their characters; and it traces life in their rural village, which like all of Hungary is under Communist control. There are all shades of villiagers: peasants and Communist lackeys. Finally, there is the arrival of the ill-fated revolution.
The twins and Monika are compelling characters, vividly portrayed. The twins are opposites, the difference -- nearly -- between dark and light. All the players come alive on the pages of the novel. Descriptions are like pictures. We see life in rural Hungary both in its routines and under the thumb of the Soviets and the Communist Hungarian government.
Although this short novel is primarily about brotherly rivalry (serious in nature), personalities, and relationships, I would have liked to see more about the uprising itself and the factors leading to it. This is not a criticism: what is presented gives a clear picture and is germane to the story.
This is an enjoyable and important novel. Reviewed by the author of The Children's Story, About Good and Evil.
It all adds up: My Brother the Enemy is an excellent work of historical fiction from Rupert Colley (his first written, my second read), this one set in Hungary, beginning a few years post-WWII and moving through the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The book follows a set of Jewish twins, Janos and Lukacs, who have managed to escape from the Nazis during the war only to be forced afterwards by the communists to relocate to an impoverished little village where they attend a state-run school and watch their once-prosperous father drink himself into oblivion and inebriated rages. A few years later they manage to attend university in Budapest where they take an active role in the revolution.
Janos and Lukacs may be identical twins but their strikingly different personalities and love for the same woman create the book's central tension and keeps those pages turning throughout the novel's vivid historical settings. However, just occasionally, the verisimilitude of those settings cracks when Colley lets slip a Britishism or two. Words and phrases such as "buggered" "sod off" "bloody liar" " the f-ing lot of them" "things were a-changing" (OK, that last one is as American as Bob Dylan), might have been replaced by more generic terms or even possibly Hungarian words with translations somehow neatly tucked nearby.
But this is just an occasional issue. For 99 percent of My Brother the Enemy I nearly believed I was closely observing the conflicted lives of two brothers as they experience the dreary oppression of post-war communist Hungary and the heady thrill of its mid-century revolution.
I don't know what My Brother the Enemy by Rupert Colley the other reviewers read, but it is NOT the same book I downloaded and read by Colley. The setting, plot, and character names are all different. At any rate, I give the version I read a one star. The book ends abruptly and is completely unsatisfying. There is no epilogue, and we never even learn the fate of the mother and father characters. They were completely dropped from the storyline without any explanation.