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.

Snuggle -- Skewer

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

Source: Library

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