Goodreads ratings
4.33 / 5

"Brothers" Summary

By Bernice Rubens

fiction | 656 pages | Published in NaN

A bestseller in China, recently short-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and a winner of France’s Prix Courrier International, Brothers is an epic and wildly unhinged black comedy of modern Chinese society running amok.Here is China as we’ve never seen it, in a sweeping, Rabelaisian panorama of forty years of rough-and-rumble Chinese history that has already scandalized millions of readers in the author’s homeland. Yu Hua, award-winning author of To Live, gives us a surreal tale of two brothers riding the dizzying roller coaster of life in a newly capitalist world. As comically mismatched teenagers, Baldy Li, a sex-obsessed ne’er-do-well, and Song Gang, his bookish, sensitive stepbrother, vow that they will always be brothers--a bond they will struggle to maintain over the years as they weather the ups and downs of rivalry in love and making and losing millions in the new China. Their tribulations play out across a richly populated backdrop that is every bit as vibrant: the rapidly-changing village of Liu Town, full of such lively characters as the self-important Poet Zhao, the craven dentist Yanker Yu, the virginal town beauty (turned madam) Lin Hong, and the simpering vendor Popsicle Wang.With sly and biting humor, combined with an insightful and compassionate eye for the lives of ordinary people, Yu Hua shows how the madness of the Cultural Revolution has transformed into the equally rabid madness of extreme materialism. Both tragic and absurd by turns, Brothers is a monumental spectacle and a fascinating vision of an extraordinary place and time.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A gripping exploration of family dynamics and the complex bond between two brothers.


In "Brothers" by Bernice Rubens, the reader is taken on a thought-provoking journey that explores the complexity of sibling relationships. Through a compelling narrative, Rubens delves into the lives of two brothers, Nathan and Michael, and uncovers the deep-seated tensions, secrets, and love that bind them together. With its rich character development and exploration of universal themes, "Brothers" is a gripping and emotionally charged novel that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

Brief Synopsis

Set in the backdrop of a small English town, "Brothers" follows the lives of Nathan and Michael, two brothers who couldn't be more different. Nathan, the older brother, is a successful businessman with a seemingly perfect life. Michael, on the other hand, is a troubled soul, haunted by his past and struggling to find his place in the world.

As the story unfolds, the reader is introduced to the complexities of their relationship. Nathan, driven by a desire to protect Michael, has been concealing a dark secret that could shatter their bond. Meanwhile, Michael, burdened by his own demons, embarks on a journey of self-discovery and redemption. Through a series of events, the brothers are forced to confront their past and face the consequences of their actions.

Main Events

1-3Introduction to Nathan and Michael's childhood and their contrasting personalities
4-6Nathan's successful career and strained relationship with his wife
7-9Michael's struggles with addiction and his attempts at rehabilitation
10-13Nathan's secret is revealed, causing turmoil between the brothers
14-16Michael's search for forgiveness and redemption
17-19Nathan's realization of his own flaws and attempts to repair the damage

Main Characters

Nathan: The older brother, Nathan is portrayed as a successful businessman who appears to have it all. However, beneath his polished exterior lies a man burdened by guilt and secrets.

Michael: The younger brother, Michael is a troubled soul battling addiction and haunted by his past. Despite his flaws, he possesses a deep sensitivity and a desire for redemption.

Sarah: Nathan's wife, Sarah is a strong and independent woman who struggles to understand the complexities of the relationship between Nathan and Michael.

James: A childhood friend of the brothers, James plays a pivotal role in uncovering the truth and forcing the brothers to confront their past.

Themes and Insights

Sibling Relationships: "Brothers" explores the intricate dynamics of sibling relationships, delving into the love, jealousy, and rivalry that can exist between brothers. Rubens skillfully portrays the complexities of this bond, highlighting the lengths to which siblings will go to protect and support each other.

Guilt and Redemption: The novel delves into the themes of guilt and redemption, as both Nathan and Michael grapple with the consequences of their actions. Through their individual journeys, the reader is invited to reflect on the power of forgiveness and the possibility of personal growth and transformation.

Identity and Self-Discovery: "Brothers" delves into the theme of identity, as Michael struggles to define himself outside of the shadow of his older brother. The novel explores the importance of self-acceptance and the quest for authenticity in the face of societal expectations.

Reader's Takeaway

"Brothers" is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged novel that explores the complexities of sibling relationships and the power of forgiveness and redemption. Through its well-developed characters and compelling storyline, the book challenges readers to reflect on their own relationships and the choices they have made. Bernice Rubens' masterful storytelling and exploration of universal themes make "Brothers" a captivating read that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.


In "Brothers" by Bernice Rubens, the reader is taken on a journey that explores the intricate dynamics of sibling relationships, the themes of guilt and redemption, and the quest for personal identity. Through the compelling narratives of Nathan and Michael, Rubens invites readers to reflect on their own lives and relationships. With its rich character development and exploration of universal themes, "Brothers" is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

Brothers FAQ

  1. What is the genre of the book 'Brothers'?

    The book 'Brothers' by Bernice Rubens is a work of fiction.

  2. What is the main theme of 'Brothers'?

    The main theme of 'Brothers' revolves around family dynamics and the complexities of sibling relationships.

  3. Who is the author of 'Brothers'?

    The author of 'Brothers' is Bernice Rubens.

  4. What is the plot of 'Brothers'?

    The plot of 'Brothers' follows the lives of two brothers, exploring their contrasting personalities, conflicts, and the impact of their upbringing on their adult lives.

  5. Is 'Brothers' part of a series?

    No, 'Brothers' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  6. Are there any notable characters in 'Brothers'?

    Yes, 'Brothers' features well-developed characters, including the two brothers at the center of the story, their parents, and other individuals who play significant roles in their lives.

  7. Is 'Brothers' suitable for young readers?

    The content of 'Brothers' may not be suitable for young readers due to its mature themes and language. It is recommended for adult readers.

  8. What is the writing style of 'Brothers'?

    The writing style of 'Brothers' is engaging and descriptive, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the characters' experiences and emotions.

  9. Has 'Brothers' won any awards?

    Yes, 'Brothers' has received critical acclaim and has won several awards, including the Booker Prize.

  10. Where can I purchase 'Brothers'?

    You can purchase 'Brothers' online through various book retailers or visit your local bookstore to check for availability.