The Twins

Tessa de Loo, Author, Tessa De Loo, Author, Ruth Levitt, Translator
Tessa de Loo, Author, Tessa De Loo, Author, Ruth Levitt, Translator Soho Press $25 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56947-200-2
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Historical and human perspectives clash in this cool, compassionate psychological novel centered around the 1990 chance meeting of two elderly women at Spa, the Belgian health resort. Each woman has come for the famously curative waters. But not by chance does each suffer from debilitating arthritis. The women are twins, separated in childhood by the death of their parents. Anna stays in their native Germany, while Lotte is taken in by relatives in the Netherlands. Consequently, they lose touch with each other and live through the rise of Hitler, the Second World War and the postwar era from opposed positions. The clanking machinery of young Dutch novelist de Loo's premise is at first off-putting, yet in the end she offers a novel of considerable substance--one that is historically acute and richly imaginative. Lotte despises the Germans and feels disconnected from them, believing that in her sister's place she would have acted differently, since her husband was a Dutch Jew. Anna, meanwhile, though certainly a good woman who harbors only feelings of contempt for the Nazis, married an SS officer from Vienna. What was the degree of her complicity in Nazi horrors? Both sisters lost their husbands in the war, one to random Allied bombing, the other to an Austrian concentration camp. The narrative unfolds through a series of often thorny conversations, as the sisters probe these and other points of contention. De Loo artfully weaves two fully developed fictional personalities into an expertly realized historical background. Overarching questions of guilt and complicity, of good and bad luck, remain unresolved, but the novel subtly illuminates the ambiguities of national identity and family love. (Aug.)
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