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The Last Brother

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  874 ratings  ·  219 reviews
In The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, 1944is comingto 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 bo ...more
Paperback, 165 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Graywolf Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jill
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
...more
Barbara
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, aft ...more
Shawn
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 o
...more
Judy
Jun 05, 2012 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Judy by: Tournament of Books


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 a
...more
Carl
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 ex
...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘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 gri
...more
Louise Silk
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
...more
Emma
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
...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
First of all, I enjoyed the unusual setting of this novel--Mauritius. I knew it was a 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 ...more
Doriana Bisegna
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 un ...more
aidan w-m
Sep 14, 2014 aidan w-m added it
Shelves: translated, 2014
blandly styled & so contrived. i kept hoping, at the end of each chapter, that the next chapter would reveal a genuine narrative that wasn't so emotionally manipulative, or at least a sense of humor. when that refused to come, i gave up.
Donna
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
...more
Serena
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 hollown ...more
Patty
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 r
...more
Patricia O'Sullivan
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 frie ...more
Trina
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 bre ...more
Kaje Harper
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
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 lat
...more
Michelle
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
...more
Beth
This book had incredible depths of sadness. And yet, I loved it. I’m in the habit of avoiding sad books, because they generally also fall within the category of depressing books. This book, however, beautifully presented layer upon layer of sadness while still finding hope and healing. The result is profoundly powerful and moving.

The narrator is a nine-year-old boy living on the island of Mauritius during the 1940s. His life is overpowered by an abusive father and the senseless death of his two
...more
Barbarac
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
...more
Beth
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 ...more
Dianah
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 na ...more
Liviu
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 pa
...more
Jessie
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 ...more
Chazzbot
Appanah's novel incorporates elements that might lead one to expect either excessive sentimentality or didactic historical lessons. That it balances the subject matter without ending up in either of these categories is impressive; that is does so in prose that often approaches the poetic, and informs the reader without using the novel as an excuse for a lecture is admirable.

The novel is set in Mauritania during World War II, and involves a group of Jewish refugees who have been interned in an i
...more
James
I think the biggest problem with Appanah's novel is also its central message: in wanting to explore the relative ignorance - by means of being so isolated from the rest of the world - of Mauritius during the Second World War, through channeling the political themes towards the relationship between two very different, and unlikely, children, the novel is sentimental and consistently demands the invested faith of the reader at the events within it. The novel takes its place amongst the many reads ...more
Susann
Aug 23, 2011 Susann rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Susann by: Sheila
Shelves: idlewild
I was sold on reading this as soon as I learned of its Mauritian setting and of how it tells the little-known story of Mauritius' WWII involvement. Raj's story is one of friendship and loss, and Appanah's stylized prose works as almost a dark fairy tale. For my preferences, though, I would have liked richer characters and a stronger emotional connection.
Elle
So beautifully written. This is the story of Raj, a nine-year-old middle son of an illiterate and impoverished native family. Do not read too much else about this novel. Just pick it up and read it and savor. This is one I want to read again.
Lizzy M.
I would agree with most reviewers on goodreads that this book lacks depth and feels contrived. No matter how imaginative a person can be, and to what degree fiction can be fictitious, I don't think the voice of Raj sounds authentic at all.

Sometimes books such as these (and especially the prizes they win) make me wonder to what extent the literary scene is clogged by political motives. A book about the Jews in Mauritius during World War 2; a time so widely publicized by the media; and yet a stor
...more
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See also: Nathacha Appanah-Mouriquand

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.

Since 1998, Nathacha Appanah is well-known as an active writer. Her first book Les Rochers de Poudre d'
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La noce d'Anna Blue Bay Palace Ed Cohen

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“You say you are an orpahn, or a widow or a widower, but when you have lost two sons on the same day, two brothers on the same day, what are you? What word is there to say what you have become?” 1 likes
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