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Editorial Reviews

This award-winning novel follows twins Anna and Lotte Bamberg, born in Cologne in 1916 but orphaned and separated before World War II. The women reunite by chance in their 70s in the resort town of Spa, where they spend a great deal of time trying to get to know each other again. Both have suffered greatly, but while Anna stayed in Germany and married a man who joined the Reich, Lotte was been raised in Holland with a family that sheltered Jews. Anna is brash and crude, and although she tries to make Lotte understand her life, the latter projects onto Anna her deep resentment of all things German. A subtle, lyrical novel that performer Edwina Wren narrates with a sensitive, lilting grace.

Publisher's Summary

International best seller published in 21 countries. More than 1 million copies sold. Feature film was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film 2005. One of the Sunday Times '100 Best Books of the Year' and No. 1 in The Independent's '50 Best Books of the Summer 2005'.

Originally published in the Netherlands in 1993, De Loo's first novel to be translated into English explores the enmity that existed between Germans and the rest of Europe after World War II. This moving tale addresses notions of guilt and responsibility in a sensitive, thought-provoking manner, without exonerating or condemning.

Twins Anna and Lotte Bamberg are born in Cologne but orphaned and separated when they are five. While Lotte is taken in by Dutch relatives, Anna is raised by her grandfather in rural poverty. With the advent of war, their lives take very different turns: Lotte!s family hides an assortment of refugees, while Anna finds love with a soldier of the Reich.

Besides two unsuccessful brief meetings, they have no contact until a chance encounter in the Belgian resort town of Spa about 40 years after the war. Anna is eager to reestablish their relationship, yet Lotte is more reluctant. As she gradually comes to understand that not all is black and white, she is able to find her sister again. While some may sense (and resent) an apologist tone to the novel, readers are asked to look deeply into themselves and others before making blanket judgments.

©2008 Tessa de Loo; (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Disturbing but it makes you think

Not an easy listen, because it's a tough story. Well written, though, with good and believeable character development.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kelly
  • Colorado Springs
  • 07-25-18

Completely distinct voices for each woman.

3.5 stars.

There are aspects of this book that were quite wonderful. I found the plot well-conceived, intriguing and complex. The idea of looking at a good person who happens to be a German is an important one because it is easy to think in hindsight that all Germans were bad people. In fact, we often think that all Germans were evil. It is a simplistic idea and this book gave us a reason to think more deeply. How do good people allow an evil man to reign over them? What do we learn from it?

Anna and Lotte were twins who were orphaned and separated. One stayed in Germany and the other was raised in the Netherlands. WW2 ensued and the first was a woman married to, and widowed by, a German soldier. The other was a woman who sheltered Jews and lost the love of her life in a German concentration camp. They finally meet again -- by accident -- while each is visiting a spa at 80 years old.

It was a rich and wonderful premise for a book, and I could have loved this book but it was missing the emotional connection that I needed. While I enjoyed the conversations between Anna and Lotte, and the great exploration of their history, I wanted more of the personal conversations that I think we all would have in this situation. Where were their questions about family, personal loves, the things they did during the almost 80 years since they had seen one another last? Where were the quiet tears and angry curses over their lost moments? Where were the deeply emotional conversations that tried to catch up with one another's lives.

The narration by Edwina Wren was excellent. Her voices for Anna and Lotte were distinct and unique. And, on top of that, she was able to age the characters when appropriate. Brilliant.

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  • Fibri
  • 03-11-14

A worthy subject but terribly dull in the telling

Don't judge the book just by this review because I gave up less than half way through.

First, the narration. It's narration is irritating. Everyone is read with a very poor version of a German accent. Even the Dutch characters have German accents, which makes no sense (The Dutch accent speaking English is totally different to a German accent.) Why it had to be done with accents at all is a mystery to me.

The story should have been fascinating ... WWII from the perspectives of twins raised separately in Germany and Holland - what a great premise! But I failed to engage with or sympathise with either main character, and kept getting lost and confused in the story. I don't like writing bad reviews (the author and narrator have worked hard on this), but hey, that's the value of reviews - they have to be honest and helpful. I was bored, bored, bored.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful