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In alternate chapters, Colt moves from a quest to understand how his own brothers shaped his life to an examination of the complex relationships between iconic brothers in history. Listeners will learn how Edwin Booth grew up to become the greatest actor on the 19th-century American stage while his younger brother John grew up to assassinate a president. They will discover how Will Kellogg worked for his older brother John Harvey as a subservient yes-man for two decades until he finally broke free and launched the cereal empire that outlasted all his brother's enterprises. The author also relates how Vincent van Gogh would never have survived without the support of his younger brother, Theo; how Henry David Thoreau's life was shadowed by the early death of his older brother, John; and how the Marx brothers collaborated on the screen but competed offstage for women, money, and fame.
Illuminating and affecting, this book will be revelatory for anyone curious about how thoroughly a man's life can be molded by his brothers.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By David on 09-12-13
All but the Karamazovs
George Howe Colt provides a masterful, well structured analysis of brotherly relationships. The book uses famous brothers to illustrate his themes: John Wilkes and Edwin Booth for "good brother, bad brother," the Kelloggs for sibling rivalry, the Van Goghs for "brother's keeper," etc. Most entertaining are the digressions about so many different brothers in history: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau (does God favor the younger brother, even if he's a trickster?), the Rothschilds, Lehmans, Kennedys, Nixons, Carters, Mayos, Melvilles, Jameses (Jesse and Frank; Henry and William), Joyces, Bellows, Emersons, Thoreaus...even Romulus and Remus and the Five Chinese Brothers in the old children's book. If you have a brother, you will love all of this.
Alternate chapters tell the story of Colt's own brothers: how they grew and fought and looked out for each other. For those who grew up in the '50 and '60s, there are wonderful details about life back then. But ultimately, the Colts fade in comparison to the famous brothers profiled elsewhere.
The narration is serviceable and professional, holding the listener's interest without drama. Overall, a very enjoyable book.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By Mark on 07-27-14
Memoir combined with history
George Colt mixes the story of his life as one of four brothers (coming of age in the 60's and 70's) along with famous and infamous brothers throughout history. The author's own life story is fascinating, and was my favorite part of this book (it was about a third of the book). This would have been a 5 star pure memoir. Stories of different brothers in history are woven throughout the book - some being major chapters and others being shorter references. These include The Booth brothers, the Thoreaus, the Marx Brothers, and the Kelloggs Brothers. Some of the historical pieces are more interesting than others (the Kelloggs chapter was the most interesting). The way the author left and then returned to a set of brothers was a bit disconcerting. I am close in age to the author, and I enjoyed listening to this book and thinking of my own brother and myself, as well as my own three sons. While this could have been better edited, with some slow parts here and there, I still liked much of it, and loved a lot too. It's a book that stays with me more than other books.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful