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The Last Brother

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,524 ratings  ·  319 reviews
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 mysterious ...more
Paperback, 165 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Graywolf Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  1,524 ratings  ·  319 reviews

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Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Raj is a man haunted by his memories. As the story opens he is trapped voiceless in a dream. Or is it a nightmare? His friend from 60 years ago visits him in this dream as a man. Raj reaches for him and tries to call out to him only to awaken with tears on his cheeks. At the tender age of 9 Raj has already experienced enough trauma for a lifetime. When he first sees David behind the barbed wire fence he instinctively knows this boy will become his friend. Some people start out believing they are ...more
Jim Fonseca
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: french-authors
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 Jewis ...more
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 al ...more
Barbara H
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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, a ...more
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
This beautifully written novel is the melancholy reminiscence of a 70-year-old Mauritian named Raj, of his brief friendship with Jewish orphan David, when both were 10-year-old boys in 1944. David, a native of Czechoslovakia, ended up in the Beau-Bassin detention camp in 1940, after the refugee ship he was on fleeing the Nazis was turned away from Palestine by the British and sent to Mauritius. Recuperating from a savage beating by his alcoholic and abusive father at the hospital in the camp, wh ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
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 o ...more
In September of 1940 a European ship filled with Jewish refugees was denied entry into Palestine. They were without entry permits and the British sent them to a detainee camp on the Island of Mauritius. This short, poignant, book tells this story through the memories of a native man who befriended another boy, who was in this camp.

When Raj, our narrator, first sees David he is confused as to why the young boy is in jail. Lacking language skills to communicate, their eyes and hand signals draw th
Jennifer (JC-S)
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘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

In September 1940, a ship carrying European Jews was pledged to Palestine where they were told that they could obtain asylum. Once the ship docked in Haifa the passengers were considered illegal immigrants and denied entry. They were instead sent further south, all the way to the African island of Mauritius, which was also under British rule at the time. Here, the Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi concentration camps in Europe ended up spending the rest of the war in the island's state prison. T
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 Jew ...more
The only reason why I picked up this book is because its author is from Mauritius and the book is set there (and well, because I found it used for three bucks, let's be real). As some of you know, I want to read my way around Africa and whilst I found many compelling recommendations for most African countries, there are some (usually the smaller ones) where finding books that A) interest me and B) are available in a language that I speak and C) are in print in Germany is incredibly hard. Mauriti ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novella
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 comp
May 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Moushine Zahr
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the first novel I've read from Mauritius author Nathacha Appanah and would want to read her other books. This book is very well written, concise and clear with a very powerful underlying message.

Raj, an old man, visits the tomb of David, his childhood 'adopted' brother for a few days. Readers follow the life of Raj in Mauritius island, focused on his childhood when he was about 10 years old. He was born in a small rural village in a poor family of 5 composed of 2 protective brothers, a
Friederike Knabe
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, french-lit
Ten-year old David, his blond curls surrounding his pale face could not be more different from nine-year old black-haired dark-skinned Raj. In very dissimilar ways, each had suffered dramatic loss, and been exposed to violence and suffering. Yet, when their paths cross in the interior of the island of Mauritius, their friendship is instant and deeply felt. It is expressed by gestures, singing and dancing, much more than through a language that belongs to neither. Sixty years on, the elderly Raj' ...more
Louise Silk
Oct 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.

Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-the-world
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.
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Doriana Bisegna
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It takes place on the island of Mauritius during WWll. It is the story of a family that lives there and Jews that were put in a camp because they didn’t know what to do with them. They had been turned away from Haifa because their immigration papers were not right. They were then brought to Mauritius.127 Jews died there in the camp. The “family” story is as engrossing as the rest of the book. To write more would be telling too much of the story
Andy Weston
This short novel is set against the background of a little known aspect of the Second World War. In 1940 a ship containing more than 1500 Jewish people, refugees from the war in Europe, was denied entry to Palestine by the British. They were sent to Mauritius, a detainment camp at Beau Bassin. 128 died there of tropical diseases and inadequate food and clothing.
Appanah (a Mauritian herself) employs a ten year old narrator, Raj, from a local family, who has a tragic background himself, and a vio
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abhijit Srivastava
Heart touching, and narrated in first person from the voice of a 10 year old boy, it presents a story of loss and strength so remarkable in transcending the bonds of blood relationships that the one might get compelled to think of similar relationships in ones life and once finding it, might consume the story as ones own.
Nathacha Appanah motivates me to write my own book. I don't like how she depicts Mauritius in hers. ...more
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poc-canon
Wasn't a huge fan of the book upon finishing my first reading of it, but Appanah is writing a whole new fictional addendum to La Frontera with the history of Indian indentured servitude in the British colonies. Without saying so much in words about the conditions of Mauritius pre- and post-independence, she paints a vivid, painful, and honest picture of the harm done by colonizers to the nascent nations of the Global South. Appanah makes a brave refusal to forgive and forget their disregard for ...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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“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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