Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Cardturner -- Louis Sachar

Everyone told Louis Sachar that he shouldn't write a YA novel about bridge. His agent, his wife, and his publisher all warned against it. He did it anyway because he loved bridge and because he'd like to see young people learn the game. I don't know that the book will achieve that purpose, but I liked it a lot. In fact, although it's over 300 pages, I read it in one sitting.

It's the story of Alton Richards, who's hired one summer to be his uncle's cardturner. His uncle is a great bridge player, but he's gone blind. That's no obstacle to his playing in one way, since he can remember all the cards without having to see them. He just needs someone to handle them. That's Alton's job.

Alton knows nothing about the game, so that gives Sachar a chance to explain things to the reader. But he warns you every time something technical is coming up and even puts a whale in the middle of the page so you can skip it if you want to. (I didn't skip.) Things move along about as you'd expect until suddenly there's a big twist that I won't reveal. I know I wasn't expecting it, though maybe I should have been.

Besides being a bridge novel, this is a coming-of-age story, and I'm a sucker for those. It's also very funny at times, and I'm a sucker for that, too. I bought the book for Judy, who loves bridge, but I'm glad I read it, myself. Great fun.

But about that cover, which appears to show a guy asleep in a train station. What does that have to do with bridge? Or this book? Nothing whatsoever, as far as I can tell. Sachar's a big-time bestselling writer, though, and he must have had cover approval. Maybe I'm missing something here, but I just don't get it. Read the book and see if you can figure it out. And let me know if you do.


Anonymous said...

Well, I loved HOLES and I have played bridge, so I guess this is a must.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I never get the jokes in THE NEW YORKER either. The seats form a bridge? He is blind because a book covers his eyes? He is wasting his youth when he might have played bridge?
I am reminded of my grandmother, who had a bridge gambling addiction, who told me if I was marrying a professor I had better learn to play well because faculty wives did little else. I never learned the game.

Unknown said...

It's a lot different from HOLES.

Glen Davis said...

I recently started reading books by Don Von Elsner, who wrote about bridge playing PIs and spies.

Good books, even though I don't know how to play bridge. Might have to pick this one up.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I just meant that I liked his writing, not that I thought it was like HOLES.


Unknown said...

The writing is good in this one, too. But, as I said, it gets weird. As did HOLES, for that matter, but in a different way.