The Cardturner by Louis Sachar.

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Hardback, 336 pages

Published January 1st, 2010

IBSN: 9781408808504

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had it drilled into me that my uncle Lester was my favourite uncle. My mother would thrust the phone at me and say, “Uncle Lester wants to talk to you,” her voice infused with the same forced enthusiasm she used to describe canned peas. “Tell him you love him.”

“I love you, Uncle Lester,” I’d say.

“Tell him he’s your favourite uncle.”

“You’re my favourite uncle.”

When Alton Richards is seventeen, his sick Uncle Lester’s health takes a turn for the worse. Most of the contact he has ever had with his uncle has been the short awkward conversations his mother submits him to via the phone, so he doesn’t know him very well. However, when blind Uncle Lester requests that Alton sit in on bridge games with him, his money-grubbing mum jumps at the opportunity, hoping it will get them into the will. Thus Alton becomes the Cardturner! That’s right, he turns cards. He also chauffeurs his uncle to and from the bridge club.

This does focus very heavily on bridge. I knew nothing about the game before reading this, but now have a very basic understanding. I suppose you could say it’s like a beginners manual. That may sound boring, but the Cardturner manages to teach while also showing you a good time.

If the idea of reading a beginners bridge manual doesn’t thrill you, never fear! There is also romance and mystery, and a cast of funny, loveable and sometimes gruff characters to enjoy (all the bridge players at Uncle Lester’s club are forever trading stories about hands that they played years and years ago – I found this endearing and funny). Even a little slice of the unbelievable makes an appearance towards the end.

There is something delightful about Louis Sachar’s writing. Magical, even. If you haven’t read any of his books before, why not pick this up and give it a go? Or you could start with Holes, which is also amazing.

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