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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Title: The Cardturner
Author: Louis Sachar

Release Date: 1st June 2010

My Rating: 4/5

My mother put her hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye, and gave me her best motherly advice: 'Don't screw it up, Alton.'

When Alton's ageing, blind uncle asks him to attend bridge games with him, Alton agrees, mainly because his mother reminds him it is good to be on the right side of your rich uncle. Not expecting much from the outings, Alton soon finds himself getting to know a lot, not only about his uncle and his family's history, but also about himself. As one mystery unfolds, another is discovered in this brilliant and funny novel.

My Review:
Although I loved The Cardturner, I'm really struggling to find the right words as to why. First and foremost, it is about a game called bridge. Most people, if they have heard if it, generally associate the game with the elderly. All I knew about it, before reading The Cardturner, was that it was a card game, and that my Grandma played it with 'The Bridge Girls' once a month. I love reading books that have been inspired by authors' quirky interests. Louis Sachar wanted to write a book about bridge. He wanted to share his love of the game and also hopefully entice younger people to play. And that is exactly what he has done. Thankfully for us readers, the story is told from the perspective of 17-year-old Alton, who gets a summer 'job' turning the cards for his blind great Uncle, four times a week, at his bridge club.

Bridge aside, The Cardturner is about family: family relationships, family secrets, family money and a mystery (that turns out to be quite heart-breaking). There is also the normal adolescent difficulties with friends and the opposite sex but, thankfully, these do not suffocate the book, although I suppose the other way of looking at it is that the game of bridge does suffocate the story.

There is a lot of detail concerning bridge. Alton explains the rules at intervals throughout the book as he learns something, or decides that we are now ready to learn that particular move. And then we often get detailed descriptions of a particularly awesome, or terrible, play. Thankfully, Sachar/Alton understands that not everyone will be as crazy about the game as he is, and starts the explanations off with a little symbol so that we are aware that there will be a short summery of what he has described at the end of his explanations, meaning we can skip forwards and read it in three lines in layman's terms, and still understand what is happening. It can end up being quite funny.

I loved the characters that Sachar has created. Alton is a fantastic protagonist. He is so easy to relate to and is very likeable. After finishing, I felt as if Alton was my friend and/or that I wish he was. Leslie, Alton's younger sister is a really cool kid and I enjoyed the relationship between brother and sister. It is unusual to have siblings that like each other, treat one another well and stand up for each other (unless that is the whole point of the story), especially when it is a 17-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl. Trapp was also a great character, with his random philosophical comments and questions, and his sporadic "hah's!". The only character that really annoyed me was Cliff. I think most readers will agree with me.

Funnily enough, I now have the urge to sit down and play bridge with my Grandma. I would even re-read The Cardturner, not just because I loved the story, but because I wouldn't mind trying to learn more of the rules of bridge again (some of the terminology was lost on me the first time around)!

In regards to creating interest in bridge for the younger population, mission accomplished Mr Sachar.

This is suitable for all ages. While it is aimed at young adults, there is no adult content so would be ok for kids aged 11+. This is purely because it can get quite complicated and might be difficult for younger readers to grasp.

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