Published: 9th August 2011
Number of Pages: 352
Book: For Review From Bloomsbury*
Genre: Realistic-Fiction, Humour, Contempory, Magical-Realism, Family, Romance, YA, YA-Middle Grade Crossover, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death
No Alcohol, Drug References
Author's Blog: Louis Sachar
The summer is looking bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to go out with his best friend, he has no money and no job. And then his parents insist that he drives Uncle Lester to his bridge tournaments four times a week.
Uncle Lester is old, blind, very sick… and very rich. Which is why his parents are desperate for Alton to worm his way into his good books. But they’re in competition with other distant relatives.
Not expecting much from the outings, Alton soon finds himself getting to know a lot about his uncle, his family’s history, and pretty Toni Castaneda, another contender for Uncle Lester’s inheritance.
From when he was tiny, Alton’s had this drilled into him: Uncle Lester is his favourite uncle. Lester Trapp is very rich. Rich enough that he doesn’t have to be nice to anyone. After years of “I love you” and “you’re my favourite uncle” Alton – who has only met Trapp (as he’s known by his bridge-buddies) once – is forced by his parents to take his uncle to bridge tournaments, to play the cards for Uncle Lester, as his diabetes has left him blind. As if his summer wasn’t going to be bad enough already. But, reluctantly, Alton agrees. Alton thought he’d be bored out of his mind, not that he’d actually grow to like the game. As he becomes obsessed and tries to memorise as many of the rules and plays as he can, he starts to guess what his uncle will play (never asking “Are you sure”, of course). In the process, Alton learns more about his uncle and heritage than he ever thought possible. He even finds love.
I never, not in a million years, thought I’d read a book about bridge, much less love it. I didn’t really know what to expect from The Cardturner, as far as the main theme was concerned. However, I’ve read Louis Sachar’s Holes and loved the humour, writing and characters. The three were just as brilliant in The Cardturner – maybe even better.
Alton was one of those characters that you can fall in love with instantly. I just adored the way he saw the world, and his unique, believable voice. The fact that he’s “philosophy bent” helped too. The way he described bridge and all the plays was in a way that a completely ignorant person like me can understand and enjoy. You even had the chance to skip the bridge parts, as there was a secret code (I didn’t: I loved it all, but you did have a choice). But what was truly special was the relationship between Alton and Trapp: it was the driving force behind the story, the part that kept everything together. And, as for Trapp, he was just as brilliant and loveable, in a rather House-like way, although less arrogant and obnoxious. His stubbornness and intelligence were clear, and he was most certainly a talented played. Trapp could remember every single card; his own, his partner’s and all that had been played. Pretty amazing, huh?
And, in a very Sachar way, all the background characters were wonderfully thought-out, all having their own distinct personality. Out of all of them, Alton’s little sister Leslie had to be my favourite. She was smart, sweet and an ace bridge player (yeah: bad pun, I know).
My favourite part of the story had to be the talks between Trapp and Alton. I know I’ve already mentioned their bond, but their talks are just something else. They challenged human consciousness, whether ideas were living entities that never truly die, and the reality of mental illnesses. Are those with schizophrenia really ‘ill’ or are they just most open to the voices of the universe: can they just hear the ideas as others can’t? Let me tell you, these talks really, really got me thinking.
Funny, sad, interesting, intriguing, unpredictable: I loved this book so, so, so much. I stayed up late to finish it, unable to put it down as I just had to see how it ended. Sachar has such a unique voice, one that I just love to bits. I’m thinking about going out and getting as many of his books as I possibly can. And taking up bridge. I’ll be useless at it, but it sounds so much fun; way more challenging than chess…
I shall end on this note, with a quote from Alton himself: “The impossible is more believable than the highly improbable”. Which is so very true, don’t you think?
4½ Out of 5
4½ Out of 5
Read this book if you liked:
Holes by Louis Sachar
Skellig by David Almond
Too Small To Fail by Morris Gleitzman
Challenges It's Taking Part In:
* This book was received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review