Book Review: The Last Brother – Nathacha Appanah

Title: The Last Brother
Author: Nathacha Appanah
ISBN: 9781555975753
Pages: 208
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Raj is a boy living on the island of Mauritius with his two brothers, his mother, and his abusive father.  After tragedy strikes, the family moves across the island, where Raj’s father finds work as a prison guard.  Raj follows his father to the prison one day and makes eye contact with a young Jewish boy about his age, named David.  This chance meeting will have repercussions that will affect Raj for the rest of his life.

Review:

Books can do so much for us.  They can broaden our worldview, educate us, and let us know about little pieces of history that we otherwise would never know.  The Last Brother beautifully accomplishes all of these things, in a remarkably slim package through elegant and graceful prose.  Going into this book, I had no idea that Jewish refugees were held against their will in Mauritius during World War II.  I found the information contained within fascinating, but I was really captivated by Appanah’s beautiful prose and the heartbreaking story in The Last Brother.

The Last Brother is actually a work in translation, so I have to give translator Geoffrey Strachan a lot of credit when it comes to the beauty of the prose.  It’s clear and precise, spare yet unbelievably gorgeous.  The lushness of the prose fits the majesty of the island, at the same time its simple underlying nature perfectly captures the essence of Raj’s childhood.

Raj is an endearing protagonist, and the reader will ache for him as the story progresses.  He wants to find love and a sense of belonging; his mother’s unconditional love for him cannot make up for his father’s abuse and hatred.  The book jumps between the young Raj, and the old man he becomes, and it is so interesting to see the elder Raj desperately try to understand what happened when he was a boy, give it some meaning so it isn’t just senseless loss.  It’s amazingly done and keeps the reader very emotionally invested in the story.

The Last Brother also manages to keep readers hooked from beginning to end.  This might seem natural since the book is so short, but it can be a difficult thing to do, especially in a book with so much heartbreak as this.  Indeed, this review may make it seem like this book is heavy and difficult to read, but it isn’t, which is remarkable.  Every time things seem to be getting to be too much, the author switches to something light-hearted, something a little easier on the soul to remind the reader (and Raj) of the small pleasures of life.

This was really a remarkable book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s a beautiful treatise on the need for love and the scars inflicted by loss.  It’s a moving story, one that fans of literary and multicultural fiction will enjoy.  Nathacha Appanah is a promising voice in fiction, and I hope we’ll be seeing more from her soon.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Comments

  1. I love it when a book in translation doesn’t lose any power of the original, and it sounds like this book does that beautifully. I like the sound of this book, and haven’t heard much about it before reading your review. I am going to be looking out for this one, and thank you for your very thoughtful and perceptive review!

  2. I love it when a book in translation doesn’t lose any power of the original, and it sounds like this book does that beautifully. I like the sound of this book, and haven’t heard much about it before reading your review. I am going to be looking out for this one, and thank you for your very thoughtful and perceptive review!

  3. My husband and I have been working on translating his grandfather’s journal from WWI, so in a very elementary way, I can imagine how hard it is to capture the right spirit. This sounds wonderful, and might I add that the cover is exquisite.

  4. My husband and I have been working on translating his grandfather’s journal from WWI, so in a very elementary way, I can imagine how hard it is to capture the right spirit. This sounds wonderful, and might I add that the cover is exquisite.

  5. I saw this at Barnes and Noble the other day and almost picked it up — I’m going back for sure!

  6. I saw this at Barnes and Noble the other day and almost picked it up — I’m going back for sure!

  7. That cover grabs me right away, I don’t know why. Then your review makes me want to run out and get it right now, even if it IS heartbreaking. I’m kinda feeling like reading a heartbreaking book at the moment…. Great review.

  8. That cover grabs me right away, I don’t know why. Then your review makes me want to run out and get it right now, even if it IS heartbreaking. I’m kinda feeling like reading a heartbreaking book at the moment…. Great review.

  9. Terrific review, Swapna – I also really enjoyed this book. I thought the sense of place was captured beautifully…a remarkable little book.

  10. Terrific review, Swapna – I also really enjoyed this book. I thought the sense of place was captured beautifully…a remarkable little book.

  11. I just finished reading this book. I totally loved it too.. The only thing that I wasn’t too fond of was the cover art.. loved everything about the book.. in spite of it being a translation. Nice review. Very well said.

  12. I just finished reading this book. I totally loved it too.. The only thing that I wasn’t too fond of was the cover art.. loved everything about the book.. in spite of it being a translation. Nice review. Very well said.

  13. This book was beautiful. I loved it.

  14. This book was beautiful. I loved it.

  15. Great review! I loved this book, too, especially the writing and how I learned something new about WWII. I’ll get your review linked on War Through the Generations soon.

  16. Great review! I loved this book, too, especially the writing and how I learned something new about WWII. I’ll get your review linked on War Through the Generations soon.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Last Brother (S. Krishna’s Books) […]

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy:  I welcome comments and read each one I receive. If your comment needs a response, I will provide it in a timely manner, as I read every comment I receive. Please keep your comments civil and polite! I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude or inappropriate. Because of spam, I have to moderate comments on old posts. Please be patient - I will approve your comment quickly.

Before the tag in the Genesis footer: !-- Quantcast Tag -->