Louis Sachar won my heart with Holes, his YA novel about a bunch of boys sent to dig holes in the middle of a desert as a punishment. If you haven’t read it, you should – it’s full of wonderful characters and surprising revelations. Pure brilliance. The Cardturner is Sachar’s latest book for teens.
I think ‘quirky’ is the best word for it. American and Australian writers are good at quirky, aren’t they? The central character, Alton, is a 17 year old boy with a rich uncle and dreadful parents. The dreadful parents want their son to suck up to the rich uncle (Lester) so he leaves them pots of money when he dies. His death, they hope, will be quite soon now he’s gone blind from his diabetes and appears to be failing in health. Alton is given the role of cardturner for Uncle Lester at the bridge parties he attends. Uncle Lester is gruff and dismissive of Alton, thinking he’s just another typical teen obsessed with computer games. Alton resents this, especially as he is sharper at bridge than his uncle gives him credit for; a sharpness that intensifies with the introduction of Toni. Toni is a distant relative and potential rival for the inheritance. Alton is told to keep on her good side and yet be wary, especially as there is ‘insanity’ on her side of the family.
The action revolves around the numerous bridge tournaments. Throughout the book Sachar, tries to instruct the reader on the ins and outs of the game but I have to confess those bits went over my head. Even Go Fish is too complex a card game for me so descriptions of the dummy hands, finesse moves etc in bridge was never going to sink in to my thick skull, no matter how simply explained. That doesn’t matter though. Those sections were the press-studs that fastened the main themes of story together. And big themes they were. Themes such as how familiy histories can be so distorted by misinformation they have a damaging, domino effect from one generation to the next. Themes of greed, mental illness, love and friendship are all told with gentle good humour and woven with Sacharesque-skill. The Cardturner a moving, life-affirming and heartening story. Recommended.
I give it : ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Suitable for 12 +
Boys and girls
Published by Bloomsbury