The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (Translated by Geoffrey Strachan)

At seventy, Raj is still haunted by the ghosts and sadness that have shaped his life, but there has been one ghost in particular that has made it difficult for him to find peace.  After a dream Raj is prompted to visit the grave of a boy he once knew, a boy who defined much of how he views himself. Finally he allows himself to begin reflecting on the events of the summer of 1945, when he and David  became friends, and get caught up in a devastating storm that brings not only freedom, but heartbreak.

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah uses a little known piece of World War II history as the backdrop of this story of friendship that springs up between two boys desperately in need of comfort and each other in 1945 Mauritius. This story will be of particular interest to those who are fascinated by the far-reaching effects of WWII.  Appanah does a wonderful job in portraying the poverty and the island life that contributed to Raj’s family and the larger community largely being unaware of the plight of Jews being held captive on the island. The exploration of guilt and loss were fascinating for me, especially when the adult Raj is determining the responsibility of his child actions as an adult.  To get an accurate read on what’s going on requires careful attention.

The Last Brother is thoughtful, beautifully rendered and translated. Though a slim volume, it nevertheless contains a powerful story between its pages.  Highly recommended.

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