Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Last Brother

Morning bloggers! It's been a very Tournament of Books week. I finished State of Wonder over the weekend, and I finished up Nathacha Appanah's The Last Brother on Tuesday.

It's funny to read these books back to back. They both take place in exotic locales, they're both about intense and somewhat complicated relationships, but State of Wonder was 368 pages while The Last Brother weighs in at a slim 160 pages. Of the two, I found Appanah's novel much more satisfying than Patchett's.

The Last Brother is the story of Raj, a 70-year-old man born and raised on the island of Mauritius. Looking back at himself as a 9-year-old, he recounts the sudden loss of his two brothers and the unlikely story of his friendship with a Jewish boy named David. The relationship between the Raj and David would shape his life in a way he never expected. His remembrance of that time and the events that played out between he and David were filled with loss and grief that shaped his adult self.

There was more acute emotion and powerful writing in this little novel than in most chunky books. The narrative bounced back and forth between Raj in the present day on a visit to David's grave to1945 when Jews were held captive in a prison on the island.

Reading this little book it felt that every scene, every chapter, was lovingly chosen and written down to its most basic, concise form. It was an examination not only of Raj's missteps as a kid, but of a specific piece of history that is almost completely overlooked. Did you know there were Jews shipped to Mauritius?? I didn't, and I certainly never learned it in a history class in high school or college. This book was an heart-wrenching way to experience the incident, and it was a beautiful examination of how one's decisions can shape a lifetime.

And I haven't really done this novel justice, but there it is. It's awesome. Buy it. Just do it. OH, and this one is translated. Cheers to Geoffrey Strachan for translating this one beautifully from the French.

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer

Pub. Date: February 2011 (reprint edition)
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13:  978-1555975753 

Source: Library

16 comments:

  1. I so agree. Wasn't The Last Brother wonderful?

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  2. I have seen this book around, but I have to admit I haven't given much thought to whether I would like it or not. Your review has intrigued me, though, so on to the wish list it goes...

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  3. Well darn, I thought I had this one in my stacks, but it looks like I don't. It sounds like I need to get it!

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  4. Andi, this sounds wonderful! Since I've already spent my unborn children's college education money on books this week - why not throw in the grandchildren's?

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  5. Wow -- I adore the cover firstly -- and secondly -- I need to get this book! I've never heard of it but I'm so intrigued after this review -- thanks for giving this one a shout out!

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  6. It's so hard to pack a lot into such a slim volume. This one's gone on my wishlist :)

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  7. This one does sound excellent, and I am curious about it after reading the plot synopsis and your wonderful review. Thanks for the deep look into this book. I am eager to see what I think of it for myself.

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  8. I can see why you're having a hard time with Vanity Fairy, if this one grabbed you like that! This sounds fantastic!

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  9. Yet another book you've opened my eyes to! I've completely overlooked The Last Brother... but I think I'll definitely have to pick it up, next time.

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  10. This sounds really lovely, I'm off to Amazon for a look. And I was going to mention the beautiful cover, too, but someone beat me to it! :)

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  11. I have this one on my shelf and am so glad I do. I've been meaning to read this for months and just haven't gotten around to it. It sounds like I have missed out on a beautiful story.

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  12. Wow this sounds good! I had enver heard of it! onto the wish list it goes :)

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  13. From the list, this is one that sounded most appealing to me. I do hope to read it eventually!

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  14. I loved this one too, Andi - beautiful writing, amazing story...packs a powerful punch. And I agree with you, a better book than State of Wonder :)

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  15. I loved this book, too. It was so beautifully written and so touching. It made my Best of 2011 list!

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  16. (This review has been open in a tab far too long waiting for me to comment.) I started this one yesterday because I wanted to squeeze something short but good in between Indie Lit reads. I'm about a third of the way in, and while I like it, I feel a weird distance to the characters. I'm curious to see how it ends up and should finish today.

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