The Last Brother

I’d like share the lovely cover for Nathacha Appanah’s novel The last Brother. Appanah is from Mauritius but now lives and writes in France. The Last Brother is a tale of the friendship of two boys: Raj, a native of Mauritius, and David a young Jewish boy incarcerated on the island after a group of refugees fleeing Europe in 1945 are interned there. Appanah beautifully evokes the lushness of the island but also the harshness of life for both of the boys. The story is framed by the older Raj who looks back with guilt on what occurred on the island. There is poignancy in the portrait of Raj as a boy, not quite aware of what is going on, and who is the victim of a violent father. But I never bought his love for David whom he befriends when he spends time in the prison hospital (Raj’s father works as a prison guard). David is never a fully realised character – his main attribute being his blonde fly-away hair and uncoordinated body. Appanah suggests that David is a substitute brother to Raj after Raj’s other brothers are killed in a flash flood (hence David is really the “last brother”) but I thought the relationship was forced. Nevertheless this is a short, fable-like book, and gives a rich sense of another life. I bought the book on the strength of the wonderfully evocative dust jacket which I’ve framed. Does that count as vandalism against a book? It still has the underneath plain green hard cover …

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