ToB: 1Q84 vs The Last Brother

Fay: For once I’ve actually read both books. Quel excietment! I’ve talked about 1Q84 in a previous review so feel free to refer back for my explicit praide of the books. I’m sorry if I overlap.

1Q84 follows the dual stories of Aomame, a gifted personal trainer who kills irreperably violent men who beat their wives. She is self contained and largely friendless, but has a secret and perfect love that keeps her going. Tengo is an aspiring writer convinced to ghostwrite a crazy story written by a seventeen year old so that it will win a prize and shake up the literary world. But she is a very unusual girl and the usually chill Tengo finds himself getting involved with cults, private detectives and hiding missing people. Aomame gets similarly involed and although their paths do not interesect together they tell to story from different angles, revealing different information and insight into a reality that can’t possible be true.

So I complained a lot about 1Q84. I know I did. It made me feel better about spending weeks wading through the biggest book I think I’ve ever read. I think I actually read The Last Brother during one shift at work WHILE I was reading 1Q84.

BUT that being said I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it! I honestly did. I found it immensely readable, very wacky, excellent fun. And not just fun, also interesting thoughts about love and space and time and justice and parenting and the nature of reality. I was excited to get back to reading it, even though it was a complete pain to hold up in bed. Sure, there were flaws. Putting the three books into one meant that there was some overlap at the start of each new section as they explained what had just happened. NOT NECESSARY when you’ve just read what just happened. And it would have been such an easy edit/rework to sort that out! Also I found some of the translation a little clunky. BUT AGAIN, I loved reading it. For weeks! I didn’t get sick of the story, the characters, the general weirdness or the unusual dialogue.  I think that’s quite an achievment.

The Last Brother
on the other hand is very very short. Translated from the French, it tells the story of Raj, a young boy who lives with a violent father in a secluded spot on a Mauritian island. Poor and friendless he takes to following his father to the jail where he works as a guard. Here he encounters David, a young Czechoslovakian boy who has excaped from his home and the Holocaust to find refuge in then Palestine, only to be turned around and sent to jail. The two lonely boys become friends but when Raj decides to break David out of prison the results are…. not good.

The story takes the form of an older man reflecting on his past and as such it is filled with a mix of nostalgia and sadness. The language is lovely, very poetic. And it paints a vivid picture of the jungle that Raj find salvation in, as well as the easy friendship of two young boys who have each been through a lot of suffering. It was good, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as ANY of 1Q84. I don’t know if that’s how you’re supposed to judge books, and there are more constructive things I could say. It was easy to see where The Last Brother was going right from the start. Part of it’s charm lies in it’s simplicity. But 1Q84 was not just literally but literarily a much bigger work, so carefully constructed around a work of insane imagination, pulling in characters and storylines at all the right moments to keep it compelling

I think the jusge made this point (more or less) and that was their reasoning for awarding the win to 1Q84. But I disagree with their judgement that is was 400 pages too long (maybe 200?) and I also disagree that the end fell apart. I thoguht the introduction of the noir element was a successful way to draw the book to a finishing point and a climax to the ending. I think it was even better than Misha Angrist gave it credit for (for more check my previous post).

I also agree with the commenters who found the The Last Brother was emotionally manipulative. I agree that it sometimes felt like it was working for you to cry, which actually worked against it’s sadness at some points.

Steven, any thoughts?

Steven: Nope, haven’t read either.

Fay: Ok, so in summation: my favourite won, both good books, both in store, come by them now.

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