Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Last Brother

Title:  The Last Brother
Author:  Nathacha Appanah
Published:  Graywolf Press  2011
                  Originally published in French  2007
Pages:  164
Prizes:  FNAC Prize for Fiction
Source:  Public Library

Two young boys discover a deep bond over their own experiences of great loss.  It is 1944 Mauritius, an island nation east of Madagascar.  Nine-year-old Raj participates in the daily struggle to survive against torrential rains, poor soil conditions, mudslides, illness, and lack of food while living in a small hut with his heinously abusive and ignorant father, his loving and hard-working mother, and two brothers whom he adores, one older and one younger.    Nine-year-old David, a Jewish refugee from Prague, is experiencing his childhood in the same village of Mapou, being detained indefinitely in a prison campTheir seperate lives come together after a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the campRaj's determination to rescue David comes from a more profound motive than pure empathy.

Favorite Quotes
"In the middle of the cane fields stood the Mapou sugar factory, and several times a year its chimney belched forth thick steam that swirled above us slowly and luxuriantly.  I loved its voluptuous white clouds with their rounded edges, as if drawn by a loving hand, and for a long time I wished I could spend the rest of my life inside them.  I believed one could be very happy there curled up within them and leaping about among their coils."

"Butterflies came and settled quite close to us, we would stop and look at them, filled with wonder at their mixture of colors and I am certain that at such moments what each of us dreamed of was turning into a butterfly: arraying himself in bright colors, becoming weightless and flying away."

"...we could have been pioneers, people might have spoken of us with admiration, the first family to leave Mapou entirely of their own free will, because we wanted something better, refusing to believe all the tales that said this was our destiny: rain, mud, dust, and poverty.  But no, we were simply a family at our wits' end, poleaxed by immense grief, and so we fled."

Nathacha Appanah is French-Mauritian from a traditional Indian family background.  After growing up in Mauritius, she worked on the Le Mauricien and Weekend Scope as a journalist. She emigrated to France in 1998 and remains an active writer. Her first book was the Les Rochers de Poudre. The book was published by Gallimard for which she was awarded the RFO prize. She has since written three other books, Blue Bay Palace, La Noce d'Anna and Le Dernier Frére (2007) -  The Last Brother.

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