The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Like I mentioned in my IMM post, I became interested in The Cardturner by Louis Sachar because I used to enjoy playing bridge with my college classmates before. Also, I’ve seen some positive reviews about this book and thought it would be a good idea to give it a try even though I haven’t read Sachar’s more famous work, Holes.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

When Alton’s ageing, blind uncle asks him to attend bridge games with him, he agrees. After all, it’s better than a crappy summer job in the local shopping mall, and Alton’s mother thinks it might secure their way to a good inheritance sometime in the future. But, like all apparently casual choices in any of Louis Sachar’s wonderful books, this choice soon turns out to be a lot more complex than Alton could ever have imagined. As his relationship with his uncle develops, and he meets the very attractive Toni, deeply buried secrets are uncovered and a romance that spans decades is finally brought to a conclusion. Alton’s mother is in for a surprise!

The cover design for the hardcover (pictured above) is one of the reasons why I decided to buy this book. I liked how clean and simple the design is. I also like the other cover for this book (pictured on the right) because it looks like the back of a playing card and as you can see from the book’s summary, the plot revolves around playing bridge. I can understand why some readers wouldn’t find this book appealing because of all the bridge terminology. I haven’t played bridge in a long time so I didn’t even remember the rules when I picked this up. Also, the bridge that I knew was a lot more casual than the professional kind played in this book, we didn’t even have a dummy when we played and we never played for money. You don’t have to be a bridge-lover to enjoy this book, I didn’t even analyze most of the strategies discussed in the plays and I was fine with that. I focused on the characters and the story itself instead of being bogged down by talk about cards, although I didn’t skip those parts either.

Great-Uncle Lester is rich and sick his diabetes suddenly renders him blind so he needs someone’s hands to play bridge. This is where Alton comes in as the person who actually handles the cards while Uncle Lester directs him. Alton’s parents push him to make a good impression so they’d receive a substantial inheritance later on. Frankly, it bothered me that Alton’s parents were more concerned with the money rather than getting to know Lester Trapp, who is a fascinating person passionate about playing bridge and someone who has a very interesting past as well. Without meaning to, Alton becomes curious about bridge and learns the rules while watching his uncle play. It’s funny that while Alton studies bridge, he also finds out more about himself and life in general. I never thought much about bridge before reading this book. I mean sure you needed to think while playing but since the stakes weren’t high for us, we did it for fun. The Cardturner reads like a book for younger readers even though Alton is a teenager (he even leaves out curses in his narrative) so this can pass off as a middle grade book. It reminded me somewhat of Flipped – a novel with a male protagonist who picks up life lessons from a grandfather-figure. So if you’re a fan of Flipped then I have a feeling you’re going to like this one as well. This is a charming and sweet novel about family, friendship, a bit of romance and of course, bridge. Anyone up for a game of bridge?

Love this quote from the book:

“We may be surrounded by some greater reality, to which we are oblivious. And even if we could somehow perceive it in some entirely new way, it is extremely doubtful we would be able to comprehend what we perceived.”

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
The Library Lurker

4 thoughts on “The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

  1. I love how he used bridge as a metaphor for life and it generated some amazing quotes. Like the one you quoted and my favorite: “The time you quit learning is the time to quit playing.”

    I’m glad you didn’t hate it. 🙂

    • That’s it exactly, he used bridge as a metaphor for life. Yep, love that quote that you mentioned too. I added that in Goodreads as well.

      Definitely didn’t hate it! Don’t worry. 🙂

  2. Hi Chachic! I finished this book two days ago and loved it! I also prefer the cover with the card on it but my copy is just one showing a highway.

    I’ve never played bridge before and knew nothing about its rules before reading the book. But I did not let that get to me and I still enjoyed the book. 🙂 I liked reading about the uncle-nephew relationship blossoming between Uncle Lester and Alton. My review is here.

    • Hi Josette, thanks for dropping by. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this even if you had no idea what bridge was. Most people complain that there’s too much bridge in the book for them to fully enjoy it, I guess I’m okay with that because I already know how the game works and I’ve played it before. I did like the mentor-student relationship that developed between Uncle Lester and Alton, I think that’s the highlight of the book. 🙂

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