Review Blog

Jun 29 2010

The cardturner by Louis Sachar

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Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN 9781408808504.
(Age: Secondary) Highly recommended. When told by his avaricious mother to be the card turner for his elderly blind Uncle Lester, Alton is made aware that the fate of his family rests upon his 17 year old shoulders. His father's retrenchment adds even more cachet to his mother's aggressive mantra 'tell him he's your favourite uncle', but going along one Saturday turns into an almost daily trip. He is to tell his uncle what cards he has in his hand for the 26 boards of bridge, and then table the ones he is told to play. Alton is not impressed with his job, but comes to know more about the man and his relations as the strange girl, Toni, takes her place as the man's partner. Alton has been brought up to believe that this side of his family, particularly Toni, is crazy, and that they are also interested in Lester's will. Alton's mother has fed him all sorts of stories about Toni and her mother, and these stories colour his view of the family, particularly Annabel, who he believes could be Toni's grandmother, as she was Lester's bridge partner many years before.
But when Lester dies before the National Championships, Toni and Alton decide to enter in Lester's and Annabel's names, to play out the championship which led to her incarceration in an asylum, resulting to her eventual suicide.
As Lester and Annabel, they play the event, and as Toni and Alton, their relationship becomes a lot closer.
Alton is immensely likeable, torn between his mother and the needs of his family, and those of his Uncle Lester, to whom he is increasingly drawn. Alton's foibles are quickly documented, his cooling relationship with his best friend, Cliff and his new girlfriend, Katie, once Alton's girlfriend, his relationship with his family and particularly his sister, Leslie, all are created with absolute ease. The story flows like nothing else I have recently read, and to think that much of it revolves around a game of cards makes it even more impressive. Sachar infiltrates the rules and niceties of the game of bridge with a deft touch, making it understandable to all readers. And for those not interested in learning the rules of this game, then he allows readers to skim over those sections, using a ploy which further maintains the readers' interest and enjoyment. A very funny story for secondary readers.
Fran Knight

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