Read The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah Geoffrey Strachan Online


In The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, 1944 is coming to a close and 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. When a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the prison camp where his father is a guard, he meets a mysteriousIn The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, 1944 is coming to a close and 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. When a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the prison camp where his father is a guard, he meets a mysterious boy his own age. David is a refugee, one of a group of Jewish exiles whose harrowing journey took them from Nazi occupied Europe to Palestine, where they were refused entry and sent on to indefinite detainment in Mauritius.A massive storm on the island leads to a breach of security at the camp, and David escapes, with Raj's help. After a few days spent hiding from Raj's cruel father, the two young boys flee into the forest. Danger, hunger, and malaria turn what at first seems like an adventure to Raj into an increasingly desperate mission.This unforgettable and deeply moving novel sheds light on a fascinating and unexplored corner of World War II history, and establishes Nathacha Appanah as a significant international voice....

Title : The Last Brother
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781555975753
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 165 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Last Brother Reviews

  • Bettie☯
    2019-06-10 16:31

    Description: In the remote forests of Madagascar, young Raj is almost oblivious of the Second World War raging beyond his tiny exotic island. With only his mother for company while his father works as a prison guard, solitary ever since his brothers died years ago, Raj thinks only of making friends. One day, the far-away world comes to Madagascar, and Raj meets David, a Jew exiled from his home in Europe and imprisoned in the camp where Raj's father works. David becomes the friend that he has always longed for, a brother to replace those he has lost. Raj knows that he must help David to escape. As they flee through sub-tropical landscapes and devastating storms, the boys battle hunger and malaria - and forge a friendship only death can destroy. The Last Brother is a powerful, poetic novel that sheds new light on a little-explored aspect of 20th-century history. Opening: I SAW DAVID AGAIN YESTERDAY. I WAS LYING IN bed, my mind a blank, my body light, there was just a faint pressure between my eye.Uh-oh! First person alert. The beginning was contrived which took some stern resolve to wade through; from that moment on Raj was slotted into dodgy narrator pigeon-hole. A quick read that had its moments, yet not to be recommended.Re the cover, as lovely as it is at first glance, the trees are blown from left to right, the flag right to left. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nathacha Devi Pathareddy Appanah is a Mauritian-French author. She comes from a traditional Indian family. She spent most of her teenage years in Mauritius and also worked as a journalist/columnist at Le Mauricien and Week-End Scope before emigrating to France.Le Mauricien

  • Jim Fonseca
    2019-06-11 15:40

    A story set during World War II on the island of Mauritius, off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The story centers on a young boy from an impoverished family whose father is a sugar cane cutter. In a flood due to a hurricane, he loses his older and younger brother. The despondent family moves away from that tiny coastal town and his father finds a new job as a prison guard in an inland town. It turns out that the “prisoners” are Jewish detainees – this is a historical fact. The Jewish refugees were mainly from Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia who were denied entry into Palestine by the British because they did not have proper emigration papers. The Jews were detained from 1940 to 1945 and then released after the war. young Mauritius boy befriends a Jewish boy, David, of his own age (about 10 years old) and helps him escape by slipping under the prison fence. The Jewish boy is a substitute for his lost brothers. The two boys try to escape across the island but unbeknownst to the Mauritian boy, the Jewish boy has polio. The backstory is of the father, a brutal man who regularly beats his wife and child – so severely that the boy lands in the prison hospital, which is where he first meets the Jewish boy. The story is told retrospectively by the Mauritian man, now elderly and with his own son, and the man still grieves for David and his lost brothers. It’s a good read with lots of local color. There aren’t many novels set on Mauritius – one other I have reviewed is The Prospector by M. G. Le Clezio.

  • Barbara
    2019-06-17 19:23

    Several years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Israel. During our first week there, while we were in Jerusalem, we were ignorant of the fact that during the Sabbath everything closed down. This included public transportation, which we used, shops and restaurants. Had we known, we would have prepared a little picnic for ourselves to stave off our hunger. There we were, hungry and without a clue of where we could find a meal. So we set off walking through dark, unfamiliar streets. Finally, after what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, we saw a small restaurant. After entering and standing in the doorway, a group of about 4 men and a woman beckoned to us to join them at their table. We discovered several things. This was an Arab restaurant, no one spoke English, we were not conversant in Hebrew. Finally we determined that one handsome young man spoke French. I am not fluent, but understand the language well and can make myself understood. Why am I recounting this story? The young man was Mauritian in origin. I had a vague idea where this was, but learned much more during our interesting meal and evening! By the way, although they all were curious about whether we were Jewish, no one seemed concerned- they were more interested that we were Americans! We had a good time!So now it is clear why I found it of interest to read of Mauritius. Natacha Appanah, the author, a French Mauritian, was born there. She has written about this strange, almost unwelcoming island in the Indian Ocean during WWII in 1944-45. This is a dark, sad, but gripping story of a nine year old boy, Raj, and those around him who are incognizant of the devastation occurring elsewhere in the world. Life is difficult there and many traumatic events befall this family. The father is a brutal man who works as a guard in Beau-Bassin, the prison there. Many of the prisoners are unusual and unexpected. They are some 1,500 Jews, turned away from Palestine, who were monstrously kept locked up there. It is not until late in the book that we find out how they ended there and what their fates were. Here Raj finds David, an orphaned, blond, curly headed boy. They establish a solid, loving bond, despite their mixed communications of Yiddish and French, which seemed like my own unusual conversations in Jerusalem.It is true that when one reads a book translated from another language the results may not deliver the flavor that the author desired, but Geoffrey Strachan, the translator, has presented a moving tale. It is portrayed in Raj's grief, lonliness and later his joy in finding David. Mauritius, the island of some beautiful, wondrous landscapes or harsh unforgiving places also fascinates with the sometimes cruel forces of nature. It is remarkable to me that a book with only 165 pages can explore such themes so masterfully.

  • Jill
    2019-06-10 18:26

    This is a story as old as the hills – the discovery and loss of a soul mate in a world gone awry – told with lyricism, poignancy, and sensuousness by a French-Mauritian author who is at the top of her craft.Whose story is it? Certainly, it’s the story of two little kings, Raj and David, as reflected from the 70 year old memory of Raj, the survivor. The title – The Last Brother – has dual meaning. Raj is, indeed, the last brother of three; he lost his younger and older brothers in the midst of an apocalyptic storm that caught the three of them unaware in the woods. But the title can also be construed as a tribute to David, who becomes, in many ways, Raj’s last brother: “I wanted a brother, two brothers, a family as before, games as before, I wanted to be protected as before, I wanted to catch sight of those shadows out of the corner of my eye that let you know you are not alone. I was struggling desperately to resist everything that took me further away from childhood…”Raj lives a brute existence in Mauritius with a violent, drunken, mean-spirited father who viciously beats his surviving son and his wife. In Beau Brissau, Raj’s father takes a job as a guard in a prison that holds 1,500 Jewish exiles who have been refused entry to Israel based on formalities. After one vicious beating, Raj ends up in the prison hospital, where he meets the blond-haired David who suffers from malaria.Nature in the tropic is another character in this tale; Raj feels in harmony with the surrounding landscape, filled with sweet-smelling stream and camphor trees and abundant mangos, lychees, and logans. But nature, is not always benevolent: it can rail without warning, it can deceive, and it can create havoc and death. It is, of course, a metaphor for life itself. And eventually – as we learn at the very beginning – it can separate bonds that are painstakingly created by two young and broken boys.This wistfulness and ripeness of the prose recall French-Russian author Andrei Makine; no surprise, since they share a translator. The story of two outcasts – a young tropical abused child and his exiled and orphaned friend – and their quixotic quest for freedom in a world that denies it is, at times, heartbreaking. There is a misstep at the ending, I think, when Ms. Appanah summarizes the implications of this little-known episode of Mauritian history, which momentarily causes the spell to disperse. But the beauty lingers, long after the last word is read.

  • Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
    2019-06-05 18:22

    First of all, I enjoyed the unusual setting of this novel--Mauritius. I knew it was an island off the coast of Africa, but not much else. Found out it was the home of the now extinct dodo! Much of this story takes place in the northern section of the island. Though the book is adult, the story is told from the point of view of Raj, a young boy, or, I should say, Raj as an old man looking back on that time. The story is set in 1944, and is based on a true event concerning Jews who were interned on the island. After Raj's brothers die in a terrible flash flood, his father gets a job as a guard at the camp where the Jews are being held. There Raj befriends a Jewish boy, David, and even helps him escape. The story takes on a rather surreal quality here. Raj knows nothing about World War II or the Holocaust, so he has no idea of the danger he and David are in as they play in the jungle, while the reader is holding his breath, knowing it can't end well but hoping somehow that it will. Appanah, a journalist who was born on Mauritius, toward the end provides information on what happened to the real shipload of Jews brought to the island. I would like to explore the facts more, and wish she had provided a list of her sources. I enjoyed the way she writes, and would like to read more of her books. Recommended!

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2019-06-15 16:49

    ‘I would have liked him to tell his story himself in his own words and with the things that he alone could see.’This novel was inspired by the story of 1,584 Jews who fled Europe, were refused entry to Palestine (then under British rule) and were subsequently imprisoned on Mauritius from December 1940 until the end of World War II, in 1945. It recounts a heartfelt friendship between two boys: David, a one of the imprisoned Jews who is an orphan, and Raj, a Mauritian of Indian heritage who is grieving for his two brothers, lost in a flash flood. After his brothers are drowned, Raj and his parents move to Beau Bissau where Raj’s father becomes a guard at the prison where the detained Jews are held. Raj spends much of his time peering through a fence in the prison, and this is how he meets David. The boys each recognise the other’s grief, and a period of hospitalisation in the prison infirmary draws them together. Raj, hospitalised as a consequence of his father’s beatings, is unaware of the war and the plight of the Jews and David is suffering from malaria. The boys communicate in French: ‘I’m all alone’. ‘Me too.’Raj does not want to be alone, and he hopes to save David from prison for his sake as well as for David’s. Raj hopes as well that David can fill part of the gap in his mother’s heart:‘I thought I could banish a little of my mother’s grief by bringing her another son, I believed this kind of thing was possible if one truly loved.’Raj is recounting the story sixty years later as a 70 year old man, and it becomes a eulogy to David, to the 128 Jews who did not survive their imprisonment, and to Raj’s brothers Anil and Vinod. ‘Like me, my mother carried the deaths of Anil and Vinod within her,” Raj says. “You can say you are an orphan, or a widow or a widower, but when you have lost two sons on the same day, two beloved brothers on the same day, what are you? What word is there to say what you have become? Such a word would have helped us.’ As an adult, Raj is looking back on events with a greater understanding, but with no less pain. There was no escape in the past, from tragedy; there is no escape in the present from the consequences of it. The greatest loss of all, perhaps, is the loss of childhood.Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Shawn
    2019-05-29 19:49

    Giving this book two stars is a bit misleading. Two stars is supposed to indicate that you thought the book was just "ok". I thought this book was awful, which should have earned it one star. However, I'm giving it two stars as a way of acknowledging that, perhaps, something was lost in the translating So, I give one star for the author of this awful book, and one star for the translator of this awful book. The voice of this story is supposed to be that of a 70 year old man retelling the story of his unlikely friendship with an imprisoned Jewish boy some 60 years before. His voice never sounded authentic. I found myself caring very little for his childhood experiences, nor did I ever believe the deep impact it had on the rest of his life. It never rang true. The author also repeated the same sentences, or descriptions, over and over. It felt very much like an attempt at stretching a 20 page short story into the 164 wasted pages the novel eventually became. She used words and descriptions that were supposed to give the reader a sense of how urgent, or sorrowful, or desperate this boy's life was, but it always fell flat. My favorite narrative can be found on page 88: "He looked at me dolefully and when I helped him to his feet I said these words to him, precisely these, in this order...". Now, let Me pause for just a sec. Are you not on the edge of your seat waiting to hear these powerful words? This intense exchange between these two frightened boys? Yeah, so was I. "...precisely these, in this order: Stay with me. Do what I do and we won't get separated. I promise you". Really? That's it? That's what you stoked my anticipation to hear? And, had he said those words in a different order, would it have made one iota of difference!? Well, let's see: "Do what I do and we won't get separated. I promise you. Stay with me". Just as I suspected... I sustained not a single goosebump more. Listen to my words, precisely these, in this order: Read something else. Don't do what I did. If you do, you'll regret it. I promise you.

  • Sookie
    2019-06-15 19:50

    David: My name means "King"Raj (thinking angrily): So does mine!Two boys befriend each other standing on opposite sides of a barbwire fence. David, the Jewish boy is put in prison camp in Mauritius while Raj, a local boy, is son of a prison worker. Their friendship stems from alienation, loneliness and the ability that only children seem to have to form friendship without having to communicate through words. Raj loses his brothers early on in his life and finds his brothers and the possible companionship in David while David finds someone to just be with.Appanah writes a rich text heavy with geographic symbolism, influence of nature on story line and the war that has a complicated way of finding those who live far, far away but still get impacted by it. The story ends in a tragedy that the author assured in the very first few pages. The clunky narration flits between past and present, which in first person context becomes an extremely vulnerable position to be in. The narrator, Raj himself remembers his time spent with David with both fondness and despair. Appanah makes his experience intentionally blurry since Raj is now an old man reminiscing history and his past in a way that very few people in this world can understand or even relate to. This almost fantastical and tragic nostalgia hits him at every major turn in his life and the impact it has on him is bone deep.For a short book, The last brother indeed offers a lot. However the narration itself stumbles since a good chunk of the book is reminisced. There is very less exchange of dialogues thus as a reader, there isn't much one can do but simply take in the narration and go along the story. Interestingly enough, personally, this in fact changers the reading experience allowing this book to exist as an isolated entity just like the location where the story is set. Thus the denseness of the flora and fauna of the land becomes less exotic and more violent in its impact. The last brother may not be the best story out there with world war two in the backdrop but its definitely one of the good ones that shines light on forgotten pieces of history and the victims the war consumed.

  • Carl
    2019-05-31 17:31

    Ok, maybe it’s a 2 1/2, I’ll still be in need of a flame-retardant suit, as I was apparently less impressed than most readers. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I read it, although I was looking forward to it after reading about it, and I’ve certainly enjoyed other similarly sad books about the cruelty that people can inflict upon others.So, while this brings to light a largely unknown (to me, for sure) small chapter in the huge book of wrongs brought about by the Nazis (and exacerbated by the Allies!), it otherwise seemed too maudlin, too trite (anyone else think of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?). Could be a screenplay for a Spielberg film (think Schindler, Private Ryan, etc.), with the opening in the present tense (on the way to the cemetery), already full of tears and with blatant foreshadowing of the story to come, then closing at the cemetery (and the reason for the visit is unbeknownst to the narrator’s son, after all these years?), with even more tears.And just in case you weren’t sure what was coming, there’s plenty more foreshadowing throughout the brief narrative. I also found too much explaining; e.g., does he need to tell us his father was being humiliated in front of the policeman? The dialog did it already (unless the reader is of the same age as the narrator at that point, and needs things pointed out to him). Too much tell, not enough show. Bathos rather than pathos.Somewhere in here there was a good story to be told, but to me, it wasn’t told well.

  • Judy
    2019-05-31 16:46

    I loved this book. It was a contender in the third round of the Tournament of Books. The writing is stellar; because it was translated from French to English, I am also praising the translation. The elderly Raj is looking back on his childhood on the island of Mauritius, set in the Indian Ocean. Due to poverty and an alcoholic, abusive father, childhood was hard enough but when the boy's two brothers died on the same day, life for this nine-year-old child became almost insupportable.Because of another brutal incident Raj meets David, a child his own age, who becomes both burden and savior for one of the saddest boys I have ever met in a novel.In less than 200 pages, the author wove a story of loss and longing, survival and guilt, love and friendship, family and social life, disaster and the effects of war. All of that would be enough to weigh down a 600 page tome. Instead she wrote a fairytale set in the intersections between humans and the natural world.Raj and David are mostly ignorant of the tragedies that brought them together, as was I before I read the book. If you read other reviews, you get too much information in my opinion, which lessens the impact. Raj as an old man finally learns about the historical events of his childhood and thus is delivered from all that he has carried for over 60 years.

  • Lilisa
    2019-06-06 15:32

    Factually speaking, this is one of the shortest books I’ve read – a mere 165 pages; but that’s extraordinarily deceptive. The book more than makes up for its lack of length – it’s packed with intensity, it’s unforgettable, it’s heartbreaking. The setting is Mauritius, the timing World War II and nine-year-old Raj is one of three brothers living on the island struggling to eke out a living with his parents. His father works at the local prison – a prison that Raj discovers, houses hundreds of Jewish prisoners, one of them being 10-year-old David. But where did the white prisoners come from, people who looked different from him – like David, whose hair was so blond, that it was almost white? Sixty years later is when Raj learns the answers to the where and why. But the story is about Raj and David – like the slender densely-packed novel, Raj and David’s story is packed into an achingly short period of time – a time of innocent joy, rudely shattered by senseless reality, excruciating loss and irreparable damage. But there's a ray of sunshine as we experience Raj 60 years later with the tender references to his mother and the caring reciprocal relationship with his son. A beautifully written novel of memories consisting of fleeting joy and epic loss. A highly recommended read.

  • Louise Silk
    2019-05-30 22:38

    This is a special book written by a thoughtful woman of French-Mauritian origin translated by a talented English man told in the voice of an seventy year old man living in Mauritius who is retelling the sad story of his childhood. I found Raj to be a fascinating character as he tries to sort out his attachment to a strange Jewish orphan boy interned in a prison camp on the island as the answer to both the tragic loss of his brothers and the brutal life he suffered at the hands of his father.The writing and the story are fresh and fluid and simple. The language is realistically written like the mind of a nine year speaking about fear, need, love, illusions and understanding. The use of breathless run-on and non-punctuated sentences works wonderfully and even the continual repetition added to events that are plausible at the same time engaging and heart wrenching. It was a nice touch to have the newspaper account of the historical basis for these events to put the story into its place in the history of WWII. I had to look at a map to find this island off of Madagascar and very far from the port of Haifa.

  • Barbarac
    2019-06-15 22:48

    When I first read the description of this book, first I had to look up the exact location of Mauritius..and second I stopped and thought "what were Jewish exiles doing all the way in Mauritius?." I would have probably never known if I hadn't come across this book. That's the beauty of books.And this one is certainly beautiful and sad. There's no secret in this book, from the beginning you know what is going to happen. And I thought I wouldn't be able to get past my initial sadness and enjoy the book, but I really did. I enjoyed the descriptions the most, I really was running along Raj through those forests, through the cyclone. And Raj is such a little boy, with such serious decisions to make in life, it was hard for me to read this book and not be able to tell him, it's ok, you were only 10 years old.But most of all I appreciate that this book has shown me, once again, another shameful episode in the history of this world.

  • Karen
    2019-06-12 19:23

    Appanah writes beautifully. Set in Mauritius, this book delves into a little known prison camp for immigrant Jews from Nazi occupied Austria and the Czech Republic whose ship had been turned away from Haifa which was then in Palestine. They were imprisoned for four years. The book, told from the point of few of a young boy is riveting.

  • Emma
    2019-05-20 22:49

    The Last Brother is a heavy duty read. The language is dense and at times wordy, but I absolutely adore stories written in this narrative. The writing might have had more fluidity in it's native tongue, but I didn't mind the translated version as much as other reviewers.The story follows Raj, an elderly man who is revisiting the memory that gives him the most pain in his old age. He goes to visit the grave of "David" and begins a narrative about the events that transpired between them. The story begins with Raj losing his two brothers in a flash flood, which causes his family to move to a new part of their remote island. His father gets a new job as a prison guard. Raj goes to deliver lunch to his father one day and finally sees the prisoners he's guarding. Unlike Raj, the reader realizes these are holocaust victims. Raj sees them as ghostly, hollow people. Through a series of events, Raj begins a friendship with one of the prisoners, a boy named David.The tragedy that follows is told to the reader fromt the very beginning, but that doesn't make it any less heart-breaking as you see the events unfold. Raj's character is written with all the naivety and simplicity as to be expected from a child, and I found it very easy to relate to, and believe, his character. I found myself reading the text out loud fairly frequently just to help myself digest them, but the language and techniques used are quite beautiful. Overall, the emotional connection I made to the story and the beauty of the words used were enough to win me over, despite the wordy translation.

  • Doriana Bisegna
    2019-06-11 14:35

    This debut novel from Nathacha Appanah is beyond unbelievable! Her prose is exquisite and I consider myself so blessed to have discovered this novel. The story of the Jews during WWII, arriving in Mauritius after having been turned away from Palestine (due to not having the necessary documents) was a history lesson for me. What turns a history lesson into an unforgettable tale, is the way the story is told by the little Mauritian boy, Raj who has your heart in tatters throughout! I will never understand how writers can write such words on a piece of paper that can have us readers writhing and grimacing and wanting to reach out and help. In a film it is visual but when a writer can do that with mere words, that's a God given talent and one that should be treasured by us all! Do yourselves a favour and enrich your reading experience with this novel!

  • Eve
    2019-05-24 20:31

    4,5/5 Très bien écrit et touchant

  • Michelle
    2019-06-14 21:27

    At 164 pages, The Last Brother is an easy read, but the subject matter is not. There is a tremendous amount of tragedy compacted into this short novel, making it a compelling but painful experience for the reader. Raj's guilt hits the reader full-force with the opening sentence and does not ease as he takes the reader through his maze of memories.Raj's childhood was by no means easy, and his fascination/friendship with David compounded the difficulties. Given everything that happened to Raj and his family at Mapou, his friendship with David becomes suspect. Does his desire to fill the void left by his missing brothers make his interest in David less genuine? If he had his brothers there, would he have spent his afternoons watching the compound? Would the resulting tragedy have ever occurred?The what-ifs are what truly drive the novel. Remarkably, Raj does not spare himself from the what-ifs, hinting at these various questions but afraid to delve deeper because of his lingering guilt over David's fate. Given everything that Raj experienced as a child, the reader is more than willing to forgive Raj's inability to question his actions. By the age of ten, he had experienced more horrors than most people experience in a lifetime, and his lack of introspection is completely understandable. Rather, Ms. Appanah presents Raj's story in such a way that the reader is able to fill the gaps and raise the questions where Raj is not.The happiness of his adult life makes a great contrast to his past. For a childhood perpetuated by traumatic events, Raj as an adult is modest, unassuming and remarkably content. His ability to overcome the horrors of his childhood speaks to a character formed at age ten, when he was willing to do whatever it took to save his friend from the internment camp. It is this drive, this ability to survive that makes Raj and The Last Brother special.With abject poverty, horrid abuse, a complete lack of survival skills, and other obstacles, The Last Brother could have easily devolved into a recitation of woes. It is Ms. Appanah's skillful creation of Raj and brilliant handling of the tragedies that prevent it from doing so. Rather, she is able to weave the tragedy into Raj's strength, making him not only a character that readers will like and cheer but also a character that forces the reader to question what it means to be a brother and a friend.

  • Kaje Harper
    2019-05-25 22:46

    There is a freshness to both the subject and the writing in this book that is noteworthy. The translator surely deserves a lot of credit, since the prose flows smoothly and never feels like there is a word mis-chosen or fumbled. This is the story of a boy named Raj, and his attempt escape his life's bereavement and brutality by finding a new brother in the person of a stranger. David, a Jewish boy interned in a prison camp, becomes Raj's chosen family. The simplicity with which the two boys, ages 9 and 10, come together seems really natural. Raj's fears, losses, illusions, and errors make him authentic. I like the author's use of breathless, run-on and unpunctuated sentences when she recounts the emotional moments of the boy's story. And David's death, which is explicit from the very beginning, turns out to be not some overt act of brutality but a death from exhaustion and malaria that is at once plausible and heart-wrenching. The character of David is more symbolic than fleshed-out, but this is appropriate to the way Raj knew and thought of him.The author repeats quite a few phrases, and while this may be a deliberate nod to the way children process the world, it occasionally became annoying. The addition of the newspaper account of the historical basis for these events was integrated as smoothly as perhaps it could be, and yet was a little jarring amid the lyrical style of the rest of the book. It might have been done at the end, as a coda, or in the beginning as a briefer prefix to the story. But it is one more of the little-known stories of brutality and indifference from the era of WWII, and deserves to be remembered. Overall, a very worthwhile read and beautifully translated.

  • Patricia O'Sullivan
    2019-05-23 17:40

    After a mudslide kills his two brothers, nine-year-old Raj and his parents leave the cane fields of Mauritius for the city of Beau-Bassin, and family settles into their new life, Raj going to school, his mother tending house, and his father with a new job as a prison guard. But when Raj begins to spy on his father at work to learn more about the man who regularly beats him and his mother, he meets a prisoner weeping by the fence, a young Jewish orphan named David. Raj and David become great friends, and one day, after a cyclone destroys the prison’s fence, David escapes and goes home with Raj where Raj’s mother welcomes David and helps to hide the boy from her husband. But Raj’s father suspects, so Raj and David escape to the wilderness where they endure test after test of their friendship and their survival. Based on the real story of 1500 European Jews refused entry to Palestine in 1939 and interred in a prison in Mauritius until 1945, Appanah poignantly brings a forgotten bit of WWII history alive through the character of young David. The story is told from the perspective of Raj, now seventy, but still haunted with guilt and grief over the loss of David. Raj’s memories of his brothers’ loyalty, David’s sorrowful singing in Yiddish, his father’s rage, and his mother’s gentle touch in trying to heal Raj after one of his father’s beatings are written so expressively that the reader is bound to be drawn in just by the beauty of the writing. This is a very sad story, but its being told by Raj as an older man who’s had a good life after all, offers a glimmer of hope that people can survive even the worst of tragedies.

  • Trina
    2019-06-11 18:38

    As I said in my review in ForeWord, this novel is sweet, with a hard stone pit like a mango. It explores themes of loneliness, isolation, and love while weaving a story around the escape of two boys from brutality and violence. One is Raj, a nine-year-old native boy, and the other is David, a blond child lost amid the humid heat of a Mauritanian prison in which Jewish refugees were locked up when turned away from Palestine by the British Colonial Office in late 1944. When a cyclone creates a breach in the security at the camp, Raj takes David home where he hides him from his father, who works at the prison, til his mother cannot protect them any longer. But the forest they flee into offers both danger and refuge as Raj struggles to get them to safety.Beautifully written and playing on Hansel and Gretel fairytales, this story captures the magic and drama of childhood as well as its terrors, fevers, and persecutions. It is told from the point of view of Raj as an old man, confronting the lifelong feeling of guilt over the way he made David follow him like a protective older brother. However, if there is a flaw in this finely told tale, it’s in the first eight pages when the narrator dreams of David grown up. Unfortunately, the voice is more like someone yearning for a former lover or a woman for a lost child than a man remembering a childhood friend. It’s the only false note. Once into the story, we realize we are in the hands of a remarkable storyteller. Fans of international literary fiction like Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, or even Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, will probably enjoy this story.

  • Patty
    2019-05-19 14:25

    t seems there are still many horrors of World War II that are not taught and should not fade into history. This book tells one small piece of the Jewish desperation to flee Germany and yet still not find the sanctuary they sought. Told through the eyes of a sickly little boy on the island of Mauritius it is a story full of much melancholy and still a little joy.Normally a book I would avoid due to the "literary" label, the topic intrigued me. Part of my reviewing all these books is to not just read what I know I love but to also stretch my reading into genres I may not ordinarily read. Sometimes I find the book is not for me and other times I find magical little gems like this book.It is not an easy book to read because Raj does not live an easy childhood. His father is a mean drunk and beats him and his mother.Add to that a family tragedy that rips them to their core and its a wonder this little boy survives. He does not have much but he does have the all encompassing love of his mother.He manages to find the most unlikely of friends - a young Jewish boy being held in the prison where his father is a guard. Through a series of circumstances Raj and David become friends - the only friend Raj has. Their relationship brings Raj the only joy he has in his life.The book tells the tale of their very short friendship as a flashback. Raj is an adult looking back over his life. The words flow like a river - sometimes fast and easy and at other times slow and impeded by rocks. The book is a very worthwhile read of a very difficult subject. It truly pulls at the emotions.

  • Serena
    2019-06-09 21:51

    The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, translated by Geoffrey Stachan is a quiet novel that hits the heart, twisting it until tears pour from the reader’s eyes. Beginning slowly with the main character awaking from a dream, the novel builds to a crescendo, followed by still powerful diminuendo of reflection. Appanah and Stachan’s translation provide a sense of distance from the characters at first, but pull readers in through the magic of the dreams and the jungle, generating the sense of hollowness and fullness of love in tension.Set in Mauritius, Raj is in his 70s and is looking back on his time as an abused child in a poor family and the one friend he made following a major disaster that struck his small village of Mapou, which forced his family to leave and live near the island’s Beau-Bassin prison. Raj’s family is poor, but happy as his two other brothers — Anil and Vinod — look out for him, even though he is the middle brother. He is the one chosen to attend school, which he gladly shares with his brothers when he returns home to share the chore of obtaining water from the well.Read the full review:

  • Donna
    2019-06-12 19:42

    In 1940, a ship full of Jewish-European refugees landed in Palestine seeking an escape from the Nazism which had engulfed Europe and caused them to flee their homes. The British foreign office, who controlled Palestine at that time, deported them as 'illegal immigrants' to Mauritius, detaining them in a political prison there. Of the 1,500 Jewish prisoners kept on the island, 127 died.'The Last Brother' indirectly tells the story of one of these 127. Through the eyes of Raj, an Indian-Mauritian whose father is a jailer in the prison, we learn of David, an orphan boy who befriends Raj, who is aided in his escape by Raj, and his unfortunate death.Whilst the story itself isn't the best of the genre, the locale and history certainly were interesting to me. I honestly never knew that the British contributed to the interment of Jews during WWII, and this information shocked me greatly.The book can be likened a bit to 'The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas'. I wouldn't recommend you to go out of your way to buy it, but its a decent read if you were to come across it by chance, and short enough to read in a day.

  • Elizabeth (Alaska)
    2019-06-09 16:51

    Who knew the British kept Jews in an encampment in Mauritius during World War II because they failed to have "proper" immigration papers? But this is not a novel of hypocrisy, not in the least. It is a story of childhood and love and loss. The narrator reminds us there are words for some losses - widow and orphan. There is no word for a mother who has lost a son nor for one who has lost a brother. The story is told by an aging man in simple, declarative language, except for a couple of pages late in the novel that are in stream of consciousness style. This was powerfully used for emotional impact. It was a bit of a surprise to see it, certainly entirely appropriate. It seems rare when an author changes style and/or cadence to convey emotion rather than specific words or situation.This could be four stars for some - it's probably right at the line between three and four. The Last Brother is the second novel by Nathacha Appanah and, in spite of my star rating, I would be willing to try another.

  • Beth
    2019-05-21 22:49

    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 camp. Their seperate lives come together after a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the camp. Raj's determination to rescue David comes from a more profound motive than pure empathy. More info. can be found at my blog

  • Dianah
    2019-05-22 19:34

    There's something so unique about books that have been translated; the language feels different somehow -- quieter, brighter, lush -- and here the translation is done elegantly. The Last Brother tells the story of Raj, a 9-year-old boy who lives on an island in the Indian Ocean during WWII. Raj is unaware of the war ravaging most of the world, but he becomes acutely aware of a group of Jewish refugees incarcerated in the prison where his father works. Raj manages to befriend a 10-year-old boy named David who lives in the prison, and the relationship becomes central to Raj's life and happiness. Each boy suffers under their own ugly history, and together they try to assuage old pain and forge a new life. Appanah shows us heaven and hell on earth through the eyes of a child, and it is a view unquestionably worth seeing. Beautiful.

  • Liviu
    2019-06-09 20:42

    The Last Brother is a book I heard from the BN newsletter on "new voices' and it intrigued me so i got a look the first time i saw it and I really liked it though I thought it was a bit too short to fully blow me away.I am not going to rehash the premise and the book starts with what happened at least in general lines so there are few surprises as the direction of the story, but the writing (and translation of course) and characterizations of Raj and David are just top notch and the book is a page turner where you really get to care about the boys; also the novel is pretty emotional but not in a particularly depressing way and i found myself very moved by many of the events and by the epilogueGreat read!

  • Susan
    2019-05-19 15:36

    Appanah's novel is lyrical and the reader will visualize Raj's childhood experiences and setting. Set during WWII in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, we read of one boy's childhood innocence and struggles--beatings by his brute of a father, the loss of his brothers, and his relationship with another boy who manages to escape the Beau-Bassin prison. Apparently, in 1940 fifteen hundred Jews escaping from Europe landed in Mauritius, a British island, only to be imprisoned there for four years before they would have the chance to go to Palestine. During this time 127 died and were buried at Saint-Martin. I had no idea about this episode in history.

  • Jessie
    2019-05-29 15:41

    I think I established last year with my reading of Room that I do NOT like books told from the point of view of the child. Even though this story is told by an old man looking back to his childhood, I think the author was going for a kind of fairytale whimsy thing that I just was NOT feeling. Was it interesting to learn about this bit of history? Yes. Was this the longest 164 pages I've read in quite some time? Yes. I could have been more generous with the stars and blamed the fact that this was originally published in french, but that's not how this cookie is crumbling.