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The Last Brother
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New or Used: 2 copies from $20.99
New or Used: 2 copies from $20.99

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In this lyrical and quietly moving work, an old man recounts an event from childhood that has marked him irrevocably. In December 1940, a ship carrying 1500 Jews was turned away from Palestine and sailed on to Mauritius, an island off Africa's southeast coast. Nine-year-old Raj's father is a guard at the Beau-Bassin Prison, where the Jews were housed. The lonely Raj, whose two brothers had died in a terrible storm, ends up at the prison infirmary after his father beats him yet again. There, he forms an astonishing bond with blond-haired David, who seems, in that stale phrase revivified here, like Raj's better self. The description of their friendship is idyllic, but readers know from the start that something terrible happened to David, and the suspense can be unbearable as the story slowly unfolds. In a crucial scene, Raj intervenes to keep David from helping a fellow Jew being beaten (in essence, keeping David for himself), setting the stage for the tragedy to come. VERDICT Don't look for splashy writing in this first novel by Appanah, a Mauritian-born journalist of Indian descent who has long lived in France. Instead, she offers a lovely little gem of a meditation on how humans can love and, inexplicably, hate.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

About the Author

Nathacha Appanah, a French-Mauritian with an Indian background, was born in Madagascar in 1973. She was brought up in Mauritius and worked there as a journalist before moving to France in 1998. The Last Brother was awarded the FNAC Fiction Prize in 2007 in its French edition. Geoffrey Strachan is the award-winning translator of Andrei Makine.

Reviews

In this lyrical and quietly moving work, an old man recounts an event from childhood that has marked him irrevocably. In December 1940, a ship carrying 1500 Jews was turned away from Palestine and sailed on to Mauritius, an island off Africa's southeast coast. Nine-year-old Raj's father is a guard at the Beau-Bassin Prison, where the Jews were housed. The lonely Raj, whose two brothers had died in a terrible storm, ends up at the prison infirmary after his father beats him yet again. There, he forms an astonishing bond with blond-haired David, who seems, in that stale phrase revivified here, like Raj's better self. The description of their friendship is idyllic, but readers know from the start that something terrible happened to David, and the suspense can be unbearable as the story slowly unfolds. In a crucial scene, Raj intervenes to keep David from helping a fellow Jew being beaten (in essence, keeping David for himself), setting the stage for the tragedy to come. VERDICT Don't look for splashy writing in this first novel by Appanah, a Mauritian-born journalist of Indian descent who has long lived in France. Instead, she offers a lovely little gem of a meditation on how humans can love and, inexplicably, hate.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

'Sophisticated, confident and beautifully poetic writing that's tender and poignant and consistently captivating ... a remarkable and precise portrait of a childhood that both convinces and moves' Daniel Hahn, Bookseller. * Bookseller *
'A lushly beautiful child's-eye tale' Boyd Tonkin, Independent. * Independent *
'The rich implications of history ... that lie behind its comparatively simple story would have won the admiration of Margeurite Yourcenar' Paul Binding, Times Literary Supplement. * Literary Supplement *

In Appanah's impressive novel, two young boys living in Mauritius during WWII secretly become friends. Eight-year-old Raj and his two brothers live on a sugar plantation where their parents eke out a marginal living. But Raj's brothers are swept away in a torrent, and the family moves to the heart of the island, where his abusive father finds work as a prison guard, overseeing European and Jewish inmates exiled from Palestine by the British to Mauritius, where they await the war's end. Here Raj meets David, a detainee close to his age, and feels an immediate kinship with him despite Raj's father's warnings that the prison holds dangerous men. When Raj's father beats him so severely that he's admitted to the prison infirmary, his friendship with David deepens; the love Raj can no longer give his brothers he offers to David. Weather once again intervenes in Raj's life when a cyclone hits the island, and he and David attempt to outrun their fates together. Appanah's descriptions are meticulous, and the heartbreakingly endearing Raj makes for an unforgettable protagonist. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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