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Latest Review: "The Last Brother" by Nathacha Appanah

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Taylor McCabe on The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, which is translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan and available from Graywolf Press.

Taylor McCabe (aka “Intern #1”) is a student here at the University of Rochester where she’s majoring in French and English and is on the Fencing Club. She’s also hard at work editing the “Best of Three Percent” book that we’re putting together . . . (More info about that in a few weeks.)

Nathacha Appanah is a French-Mauritian of Indian origin, and this is the first book of hers to make its way into English. Appanah was a guest at this year’s PEN World Voices Festival and participated in the “Great Books: An Inheritance of Literary Wealth” event, which you can listen to here. Books: An Inheritance of Literary Wealth

Taylor wasn’t 100% sold on this book, which nevertheless sounds like it will appeal to a lot of readers. (And for a slight contrast, this review from the NY Times is a bit more positive.)

Indian-born Nathacha Appanah’s The Last Brother is clearly meant to be touching. The story, told in flashback, revolves around Raj, a nine year old boy who lives with his mother and abusive father on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, and David, an orphaned Jewish refugee who has been indefinitely detained on the island of Mauritius while on a pilgrimage between Nazi occupied Europe and Palestine. After a brief meeting on opposite sides of a fence at the jail where David is contained and Raj’s father is guard, the two boys become friends (despite a language barrier that seems to become inconsequential later in the book) while Raj is in the camp’s hospital after a vicious beating from his father.

Shortly after Raj is sent home, an enormous storm causes a breach of security at the jail, and the boys orchestrate an escape. Raj brings David to his home, where he and his mother conspire to hide the young escapee from Raj’s father and the prison officials sent to track him down. Raj begins to see David as a replacement brother—thus the title—for the two brothers he lost in a mudslide approximately a year before meeting David.

I think of The Last Brother in a touching movie-trailer montage: cut from the scene of the old man in the graveyard to two young boys on the opposite sides of a jail yard fence, then flash to the bewildered boys wandering around amidst overgrown trees. Think The Boy in the Striped Pajamas meets Slumdog Millionaire.

Click here to read the complete review.



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