Welcome to BOOK CLUB, which I run with co-conspirator Nicole from Linus’s Blanket. Today we will be chatting about The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, which was released at the beginning of February from Graywolf Press (website | twitter | facebook). For those of you reading this post, please remember that this discussion is likely to contain spoilers.
Here is the synopsis of the book I wrote for my review:
In 1944, the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is somewhat removed from the rest of the world, enough that a nine year-old boy would not know that the rest of the world had been embroiled in a bitter war. Of course, even without knowledge of the war, Raj has a very painful life of his own, growing up in a small, poor village with a violently alcoholic father, and losing his two brothers to a storm. His life is difficult enough that things actually seem to be looking up with Raj is hospitalized at the prison his father works for – the only hospital facility around – and meets David. Raj doesn’t understand why David and so many other light skinned men and women are imprisoned, on Mauritius the white men are the ones who are in charge, not the ones found in prison. Regardless, though, he and David are immediate friends, more like brothers, really. The Last Brother is framed from the modern-day adult perspective of Raj, and we know almost immediately that something tragic happened during his time with David, although it is only through his recollection of the past that we discover exactly what it was.
Before we get started, here are some of the reviews of readers who will be participating today:
If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page (please use the TOP subscription option, the second option will subscribe you only to replies of your own comments). I will be updating this post with new questions and ideas over the course of the day.
Here we go…
- First off, what were your general impressions of the book?
- Is this a book you would have read had you not been reading it for a book club?
- What were your impressions about the way Nathacha Appanah framed this book, opening it with Raj as an older man remembering his childhood and time with David?
- Cassandra from Indie Reader Houston commented that Raj seemed to relive his past so completely that he even regains his youthful innocence. Do you agree? How does this influence Raj’s reliability as a narrator?
- Whose story do you think Appanah was primarily telling? Raj’s? David’s? Why?
- Did the fact that the book is translated change the way you read it or felt about it?
- What questions did you have for the group?
Two more questions inspired by TopherGL
- Does hearing a similar story multiple times, even about a truly horrific event desensitize us to it?
- How does Raj and David’s story touch upon World War II and the Holocaust in a unique way, even with barely mentioning it overtly?
12 review copies of The Last Brother were provided by Graywolf Press in order to facilitate this discussion. Thank you!