Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: The Last Brother

The Last Brother, written by Nathacha Appanah, a French-Mauritian of Indian origin, is an exquisitely written novel.  I was captivated from the first word to the last by Appanah's poetic but accessible language.  There were many sentences I read over and over again.  Appanah writes of extremes - unfathomable poverty and unrelenting violence, selfless friendship and fierce motherly love.  Just when you think the story is going to leave you broken, Appanah infuses the scene with an unexpectedly quiet or serene moment.  To give you a sense of Appanah's unique and strong voice, she writes, "I went and sat down by the vegetable plot and breathed in the forest with all my lungs, the green, ravaged scent of it, its strength as yet hardy resurgent following the cyclone, throwing my head back to open up my chest, and it seemed to me that I was inhaling the sky as well, the cloudless blue extent of it."  The simple act of a nine year-old boy breathing becomes a moment of grace and peace, and we as the reader breathe along with him.  Another sentence that I was struck by is "Silent tears coursed down his face in such a brutal manner that I was afraid this would never stop."  Brutality and tenderness in just a few words.  Appanah has written a small masterpiece.  I wouldn't miss this one.

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