This is an excellent companion to the World War One readings I've been doing for the past several weeks, a subject pretty unknown to me.The Brothers Ashkenazi follows the lives of twin brothers in Lodz, Poland from the latter 1800's to just past the first world war. Max, the striver and schemer, works hard to accumulate great wealth and become 'Kind of Lodz'. His younger, handsomer, more charming brother lucks into equal levels of success.The rise and fall of the family correlates with the history of Lodz - the industrialization of the city, the development of socialist movements and workers' rebellions, the rise of Trotsky, pogroms at every turn. The turbulence of Eastern Europe is practically a character in the novel, rather than a setting.There are more characters in this book that you might not want to spend a lot of time with, if this were your personal life, but there's scope and breadth and growth for all of them. This was a captivating education for me.