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The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

The Last Brother (2007)

by Nathacha Appanah

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2323149,816 (4.13)89
  1. 10
    The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (joririchardson)
    joririchardson: Both books are about young boys who innocently befriend Jewish children imprisoned in concentration camps, without understanding the war or the Holocaust. I would highly recommend both books, especially "The Last Brother."

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English (28)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Although this is a short book, it packs quite a punch and is very well-written. It’s the story of a friendship between a young Mauritian boy and a Jewish boy from Prague who is part of a group of emigrants detained in Mauritius. The book is an engaging read and the author wonderfully develops a sense of place. She opens with Raj, the narrator, looking back at his life and remembering his friendship with David. I’ve read a number of books with a past story and present story, and usually the past story tends to be more compelling. However, here the modern bits are woven in well and only provide glimpses of Raj’s life – so I was actually a bit curious about his future, instead of being annoyed that the author has filler sections.

The first few chapters vividly recreate Raj’s family life at the Mapou cane fields. It’s a very poor life, the family has almost nothing, and their father is violent at times, but Raj has his two brothers. His relationship with his brothers affects him for the rest of the book and provides several motivations, so it is fairly important. Appanah develops the relationship very well, despite only having a few scenes and chapters to do so. The friendship between Raj and David works well, as at first it is tentative and mainly driven by Raj’s slight obsession, although there are some coincidences there. The setting – first at Mapou, then at the family’s isolated forest house (where they move when Raj’s father gets a job as a prison guard) – is also well-written. Descriptions of the parched desert of Mapou, followed by torrential rains, and Raj’s relationship with the forest at their new home are memorably done. Raj’s view of his parents is a little one dimensional – his father is a violent bully, who is also a cringing coward in front of his bosses, while his mother is loving and hardworking, supports his relationship with David, and is an expert at making herbal concoctions, to the point of being almost magic. But these are minor quibbles in an affecting and vividly written book. ( )
1 vote DieFledermaus | Jan 21, 2015 |
We very rarely notice changes within ourselves at the time, we perceive them later, in the light of events and our reactions to them, but, sitting there as I did, motionless in the dark, I sensed it, a change in myself, I felt as if I were getting bigger, growing, like the trees around me, and it seemed to me that the exhalation of the green, dark forest had something to do with it.

This gorgeous and deeply touching novel is set on the island nation of Mauritius off the coast of east Africa, which is isolated from the horrors of World War II but not from the harshness of life under British colonial rule. It is narrated by Raj, a nine year old boy whose family was among the thousands of Indians that were brought to the island decades before to work in its sugar cane fields for subsistence wages. After a tragic accident he and his parents have moved to a safer town, where his father finds work in a prison that supposedly houses hardened convicts. Raj is a sickly and stick thin boy, who is loved dearly by his mother but is not immune from his father's frequent wrathful and violent outbursts after he returns from his demeaning job. He is bored and lonely in his new home, with no close friends and little to occupy his fertile mind.

One day Raj watches the prison from nearby woods out of curiosity of the men who are housed there, and he is surprised to see a boy who is similar to him in age and size, although his blond hair and blue eyes set him apart. The two make eye contact, and later meet in a local hospital, where they quickly become friends despite their language differences. Raj learns that David is part of a group of approximately 1500 Jewish émigrés who attempted to travel from Eastern Europe to Palestine to escape the Nazis in 1940, but were refused admission because they did not have proper immigration documents. The British government determined that they were illegal immigrants, and condemned them to internment in the prison.

David is returned to the prison after his hospitalization, and Raj continues to observe his new friend from the woods. He escapes after a skirmish within the compound, and Raj helps him to flee from his pursuers. Unfortunately David is not well, and the two boys struggle to find food and shelter, as David's health rapidly declines.

The Last Brother is a wonderful coming of age novel, narrated by Raj as he nears the end of his life, which also highlights a little known chapter of Jewish history. The love and friendship that the two boys share rivals that of the most intimate couples, and these two characters will stay close to my heart for a long time to come. ( )
8 vote kidzdoc | Aug 19, 2013 |
Sweet and sad little book and childhood friendship and loss set against the background of a little known enclave of history. In my view there isn't too revolutionary here.

( )
  eenee | Apr 2, 2013 |
The writing and translation are so gorgeous, with sentences so elegant and surprising that I had to stop and write some of them down to savor later. The voice of the narrator is quite strong...but it is absolutely not the voice of a 70-year-old man. And there was really no reason that the story needed to be told from a 60-years-later perspective. It is a wide-eyed, innocent voice, not that of experience or world-weariness. Had the author identified the narrator as being 12, looking back at recent events, I think this small jewel of a novel would have been perfect. ( )
  Feign | Feb 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nathacha Appanahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strachan, GeoffreyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I saw David again yesterday.
We very rarely notice changes within ourselves at the time, we perceive them later, in the light of events and our reactions to them, but, sitting there as I did, motionless in the dark, I sensed it, a change in myself, I felt as if I were getting bigger, growing, like the trees around me, and it seemed to me that the exhalation of the green, dark forest had something to do with it.
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"As 1944 comes to a close, nine-year-old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world. He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family. After a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of a prison camp, he meets David, a boy his own age. David is a refugee, one of a groups of Jewish exiles now indefinitely detained in Mauritius. When a massive storm on the island brings chaos and confusion to the camp, Raj is determined to help David escape."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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