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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Brothers.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Bernice Rubens(Author)

    Book details

Chronicles the odyssey of five generations of Jews, the Bindel family, from Czarist Russia to Wales, from pre-war Germany to Auschwitz, and from Russia--finally--to Israel

Rubens has shown an ambition, architectural skill and ability to sustain an absorbing narrative that is rare in contemporary fiction * SCOTSMAN * Powerfully told, unremitting in tone, BROTHERS is an impressive work, a profound reflective exercise for anyone born gentile and free. * FINANCIAL TIMES * Enthralling and terrifying * EVENING STANDARD * An extraordinary achievement * THE TIMES * --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Bernice Rubens was born in Wales. Her novels include the Booker-Prize winning THE ELECTED MEMBER and A FIVE YEAR SENTENCE, which was shortlisted for the same award. NINE LIVES was published in June 2002 in HB. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Book details

  • PDF | 468 pages
  • Bernice Rubens(Author)
  • Doubleday; First Printing edition (March 1, 1984)
  • English
  • 6
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Steve Koss on February 4, 2009

    BROTHERS is an absolute gem, a picaresque novel and Rabelaisian comedy of the absurd that combines Tom Sawyer and Horatio Alger with Moll Flanders and Fielding's Tom Jones, plus touches of Don Quixote and Anna Karenina. Alternately hilarious and filled with pathos, sometimes touching, other times graphically bawdy and even shockingly violent, peopled by the honest and the unscrupulous, depicting the saintliest of saints and the worst of sinners, Yu Hua's latest book presents a scathing, deeply cynical picture of modern mainland China from the time of the Cultural Revolution to the age of Viagra and plasma televisions.As the title suggests, the story traces the life paths of two stepbrothers who form childhood bonds as close as any pair of full brothers. Devilish, sex-obsessed Li Guang, known throughout his small town of Liu as Baldy Li for his short haircuts, shows promise of being a world-class entrepreneur from an early age. In the book's opening pages, he is caught red-handed in the town latrine peeking at women's bottoms from beneath the wall separating men from women. Before being caught, he succeeds spectacularly by viewing the comely posterior of the town's young beauty, Lin Hong. He soon parlays this shameful feat into 56 bowls of house special noodles, one from each Liu town male eager to hear his detailed description of the heavenly sight. As he eventually learns, Baldy Li has unintentionally followed in his natural father's path, one that led to his father's ignominious and gruesome end in that same latrine while trying to achieve the same objective.Song Gang, Baldy Li's more restrained and better educated stepbrother, is the handsome, shy, and sensitive son of Song Fanping. The first third of the book, originally published in China as a separate book in its own right, traces the boys' childhood during the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution. This section of BROTHERS is mostly brutal and tragic, but it lays out the formation of Baldy Li's and Song Gang's incredibly tight bond that, despite enormous ups and downs, becomes a lifelong mutual devotion to one another.As Part Two begins, the boys have been orphaned as a consequence of Song Fanping's tragic slaughter by his own townspeople and their mother Li Lan's steadily declining health. Baldy Li matures into a brutish and not particularly handsome young man, while Song Gang grows as tall, strong, and good-looking as Song Fanping before him. Baldy desires the hand of Lin Hong in marriage and uses Song Gang in ways reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac, but events (and love) unfold in ways Baldy Li never anticipates. At the same time, Baldy experiences his first business success in spectacular fashion as the manager of the Good Works Factory, a public charity operation staffed by "two cripples, three idiots, four blind men, and five deaf men" making cardboard boxes. His capitalist credentials established, Baldy Li moves on, an irresistible force who builds a full-scale business empire. Others in Liu town, including the former tooth puller known as Yanker Yu and the street vendor Popsicle Wang, invest in Baldy's efforts and become fabulously wealthy as a consequence, while Song Gang struggles to make ends meet for his wife and himself in a series of jobs that are increasingly demeaning even as they exact worse and worse effects on his health. Lin Hong figures significantly throughout in both brothers' adult lives, with tragic but different consequences for both of them.Yu Hua relentlessly portrays his country's loss of traditional values and their unhappy replacement by unprincipled greed as being as much a tragedy as any suffered by his characters, perhaps even their proximate cause. Part One's horrific events are clearly meant to be equated with the outrageous and tragic incidents in Part Two - the consequences of unrestrained, amoral capitalism are just as bad as those of the Cultural Revolution.In Yu Hua's cynical world, good people still exist. A few, like Mama and Missy Su and Blacksmith Tong, succeed by honest hard work, but many stand quietly on the sidelines in awe of the aggressively wealthy Baldy Li. The latter two-thirds of the book traces these characters' paths through the open society created by Deng Xiaoping in 1984, often in hilarious ways. Yu Hua's touch is a deft one, insinuating into his tale countless comical jabs at Deng's "socialism with Chinese characteristics" such as Baldy Li's white BMW reserved exclusively for daytime use and his Black Mercedes for nighttime. In one of the book's longest and funniest segments, Baldy Li organizes a national beauty competition for virgins that attracts contestants with reconstructed hymens and a vendor selling two types of artificial hymens (a cheap, domestic version called Lady Meng Jiang and more expensive foreign one called Joan of Arc). The eventual contest winner, contestant #1358, is already a mother of a two-year-old, but in a marvelous parody of Beijing doubletalk, she argues that "she would always be a virgin, because she had maintained her spiritual purity."BROTHERS is written on an almost epic scale, 640 pages. Happily, it reads like a book half its size, with never a dull page. Yu Hua has herein surpassed the already impressive heights achieved in his CHRONICLE OF A BLOOD MERCHANT. That was a 5-Star book. This one deserves twice that amount. A simply spectacular novel, crammed full of memorable characters and events and incredibly entertaining to read.

  • By K. Karls on August 7, 2011

    First off, I will say this: I could not put this book down. Well, I kind of forced myself to put it down...I could have easily devoured this thing in one night had I let myself, but I stretched it out over a week. It was, as I said before, an absolute joy to read. Fun, action-packed, and all about my favorite character from the original Marathon Man, Scylla aka "Doc" Levy. I was pretty devastated when Doc was killed in "Marathon Man"; I saw the movie before I read the book, and once I discovered that there was not only a sequel to Marathon Man but, wait holy crap, Doc comes back to life?! Sign me up! But I digress... This is not something Goldman just whipped off because he wanted to exploit the success of "Marathon Man"; on the contrary, it must have taken an extraordinary amount of time, research and effort to write this story. It's a good deal longer than "Marathon Man." The characters are many, the plot twists are numerous, and the backdrops move from one elegant European setting to another (mostly England). A couple of times I found myself sitting back and going "Wow, how does he come up with some of this stuff??" Really, the depth and size of Goldman's imagination is extraordinary. Extraordinary enough that a seemingly ridiculous concept (Scylla didn't really die by being gutted by Szell; he was just really, really badly injured and his appearance was altered by surgery, and he was whisked away to a remote tropical island for six years until he is required back to save the world) becomes plausible. If you can set aside your disbelief (stranger things have happened after all), and just accept the fact that Goldman really wanted to bring back Scylla, and hey, it's an entire novel about Scylla and that's fantastic, then you're in for a fun and entertaining romp. The protagonist from the first novel, Scylla's younger brother Babe, also appears in several scenes, as a married and successful Ivy league professor.Yes, as mentioned in other reviews, there are some interesting "James Bond" caliber weapon choices; mind-altering mist, liquid that induces thoughts of suicide, poisoned briefcase handles, and there are some truly loathsome enemies (The Blond and Cheetah for example) but what I liked most about this novel was the way it dives right into Scylla's character.After recovering his physical health and rebuilding his strength on the island, Scylla returns to employment under a new identity with the morally ambiguous, shadowy government agency known simply as "The Division." We know that Scylla looks much different due to the plastic surgery he received as part of his identity wipeout; several characters comment on not recognizing him, but other than being "suntanned", we don't get much of a physical description. Scylla is described in the book as being very tan, very, very handsome, with the same big hands, muscular body, and broad shoulders from the first book. So it's obvious that the only thing altered was his face, but Doc was described as handsome in the first book as well, a guy who had a great smile (to quote Babe, "he was a fabulous-looking guy") and no problems with women. Thus, it's sort of left to your imagination as to what Scylla's new face looks like.Scylla/Doc is, without doubt, a complex and fascinating man. He is a mixture of light and darkness, kindness and cold-calculation. He is the deadliest man in the world, yet he is nothing like the enemy "spy drones" that surround him; he is the best at what he does, yet he loathes any type of "spy game" quirks/behaviors/cliches that go with the territory. For example, Scylla hates passwords; there is a pretty funny scene where he is suppossed to say a simple password to a woman in order to establish contact, but he absolutely refuses to say it because he can't stand the cliche of it all. You get the feeling that Scylla looks at the entire espionage business, and yes, even at himself, with a certain amount of amusement. I got the impression that Goldman himself was poking fun at some of the more "007" aspects of typical secret agent stories. Also, unlike many of his counterparts, Scylla does not seem to particularly enjoy killing (unless it's someone he hates). Other characters, notably The Cheetah (a completely unlikeable Division drone) and The Blond (a superbly creepy hitman) not only enjoy killing, they REVEL in it. They live for it. Killing is a personal pleasure for them, and as soon as they have disposed of one person, they are already salivating at the prospect of the next kill. Scylla, however, kills only when necessary (self-defense or when ordered to) and he does so quickly. He never feels joy at the prospect of killing, and he even expresses regret over the necessity of a few victims. To put it simply, Scylla is not a sociopath. He shows compassion and tenderness, sorrow and regret, and because of this, you're constantly wondering what makes him tick. What keeps him going? Why does he even bother? Why doesn't he take his new face, his clean slate, and his new identity and leave Division? To a certain extent, some of these questions are answered; Scylla enjoys certain parts of the job. He loves the chase, the challenge(or lack thereof) of new opponents, and the travel from place to place. However, there is also a part of him that longs for a normal life, and a part of him that wishes he had died where he'd fallen.As we already know from his scenes in "Marathon Man", Syclla is extraordinarily intelligent, perceptive, and posesses a razor-sharp wit. Goldman's signature humor comes into play several times through Scylla, and I definitely laughed out loud on more than one occasion. Brothers allows us to see something that Marathon Man did not; it allows us to see a vulnerable, unsure, and yes, even frightened side of Scylla. Having been out of action for six years, Scylla finds himself completely alone in a world that has moved on without him. There is a brilliant scene in an airport after Scylla has first arrived back on the mainland. He reads a newspaper to pass the time before his flight, and realizes that he doesn't know what many of the words mean. Words such as "AIDS," "VHS/VCR" etc., are totally foreign to him, and he is terrified. He even questions whether or not he wants to come back to Division at all, and for a while, you wonder if he still has it in him. After a few stumbles, you may wonder: Does Scylla still have the speed, smarts, power and agility to survive as a top agent? That answer is revealed with an awesome and completely gratifying scene that literally had me cheering.There are times when you think that surely, Scylla is done for, he's messed up, he's been caught, and his brilliance shines through again and again. Scylla is a master of disguises, of different accents, and of stealth. He is, to be very blunt, excellent at what he does. And why? As mentioned in the novel, Scylla is a man with absolutely nothing to lose, who cares little whether he lives or dies. And that makes him the perfect agent. His brother Babe is the only person in the world that he gives a damn about, and he knows that he would put Babe in great danger should he attempt to reestablish contact with him. Still, his longing to see his brother again is undeniable and equal only to Babe's mourning for Doc, and his desire to have his older brother back. It's the brothers' love for each other that is really at the heart of both novels, and it's their mutual love and respect for each other that made Doc's death all the more tragic, and their love is what, I think, made me so eager to accept that Doc was still alive. I enjoyed their interaction and relationship so much, I couldn't bear the thought of it ending so tragically.I know that my first question, like many people I'm sure, upon reading this book was this: Do Scylla and Babe reunite? The answer is yes, they do. I'll leave it at that, don't want to spoil anything!Much has been made about the apparent 180 degree turn taken by Scylla in terms of his sexuality, ie; he goes from homosexual to heterosexual without giving it a thought. However, I disagree that Scylla was ever a complete homosexual. Yes, he did have a male lover in Marathon Man ("Janey" or "Janeway,"), but Scylla never gave any indication that he went for men and only men. There aren't any scenes, in either book, of Scylla staring at another man and thinking how handsome he is, etc etc. From Babe's telling in the first book, Doc had been married and divorced a couple of times. And in "Brothers," Scylla sleeps with only women. Isn't it plausible that Scylla is bisexual? Or if not, that Janey was a one-time-only deal, the one and only man that Scylla would ever be attracted to, and now that he's gone, then that's it? I don't think that Goldman was trying to brush off Scylla's sexuality; he is not shy about having homosexual references, love scenes, and charcters in his books, nor should he be, but I think Goldman was trying to establish that Scylla's brush with same-sex love was a chapter in his life that is now closed. Perhaps Scylla's now-completely heterosexual tendencies are part of his new identity. Or perhaps he didn't see a guy good-looking enough to strike his fancy in "Brothers." Who knows. It's probably the least important aspect of the book to me.My only problem with "Brothers" is the ending. I didn't like it. I was flying high until I got to the ending. Yes, it did feel a bit rushed, but mostly, it just confused me. I don't want to give anything away, but mostly I just wondered WHY Goldman chose to end the novel this way. The ending seemed to go against everything established in the first book, and everything that had built up for most of the second book. I didn't like the ending for one specific reason concerning Doc and Babe's relationship, and if you've read the book you'll know what I mean.Besides the ending, this book is a joy. I truly, truly enjoyed it very much, and parts of it had me grinning from ear to ear. I love Goldman's work, and Scylla's character absolutely comes to life. Yes, parts of it are a bit nutty (you'll never look at cute kids the same way again), but Goldman makes up for it with plenty of wit, humor, wisdom, and action scenes as only Goldman can write them. Enjoy this one.

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