Review: The Cardturner – Louis Sachar

Two questions for you:

  1. Have you ever read a book about bridge?
  2. Do you think you’d like a book about bridge?

Me either, until recently when I picked up a copy of Louis Sachar’s “The Cardturner”. Louis Sachar didn’t think it would work either and prefaced this story with the following note:

Imagine you were abducted by aliens and taken away to their home planet. After living there awhile, you learn to speak their language, and then actually become a pretty well-known author. You were a huge baseball fan back on Earth, so you decide to write a book about baseball. You know that none of your alien readers have ever heard of baseball, but you think it will make a great story, and besides, you really love the game…

            As you attempt to write it, you quickly find yourself entangled in words with multiple meanings, like ball and run. When you try to describe a triple play, you get so bogged down explaining the rules about force-outs that the excitement of the play itself is lost.

            That was the predicament I put myself into when I wrote “The Cardturner”. It’s not about baseball but about bridge, a card game that was once extremely popular but that, unfortunately not too many people play anymore, especially not young people. In fact, the people who do play bridge seem to live in their own alien world.

            My publisher, my editor, my wife, and my agent all said I was crazy, “No one’s going to want to read a book about bridge!” they told me on more than one occasion.

            Still I really love the game…

So Louis Sachar wrote a book about the story of bridge and mixed it with the problems of a young teenage boy named Alton and his Uncle Trapp who’s a mastermind when it comes to the game of bridge.

Trapp is slowly creeping up there in age and his family doesn’t hold out much hope when it comes to his life expectancy. Due to the fact that Trapp is wealthy, many of his family members (specifically Alton’s parents) are already spending the fortune before he has a foot in the grave. So when a call comes from Trapp’s house requesting the assistance of Alton’s help to turn cards for Trapp due to the fact that he’s legally blind, his Mother happily agrees to the arrangement, hoping their family will get a bigger cut of the pie long term.

Alton who’s heartbroken after his girlfriend abruptly left his for his best friend hastily agrees to assisting his Uncle, but the more and more games he attends and assists with Trapp, the more he begins to get hooked on the game of bridge. He’s astonished with the game itself and envisions himself one day claiming as many Masterpoints as Trapp and his partner Gloria. He even ends up organizing his own game of Bridge with his sister and a couple of friends to play the game.

The story of bridge isn’t always an easy story to tell and if Sachar was going to give a back-story on bridge terminology in the book, he gave you fair warning by including a picture of a whale to classify he was about to talk about the game. It was a clever and interesting tactic in terms of keeping his readers to separate “bridge talk” (if you will) and the characters entangled in the game itself. I’m so glad that he went against the curve and didn’t listen to his publishers, editors, wife or agent and decided to document the story of bridge mixing it with characters that were memorable and heartwarming.

This book is available is hardcover and trade paperback.

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One thought on “Review: The Cardturner – Louis Sachar

  1. maggy simony says:

    Came across your book blog because I have a GoogleAlert for “play bridge”–to provide content for my bridge blog.

    I read Sachar’s book well over a year ago, and I too thought he did a very good job of combining plot and bridge terminology. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that the book is required reading for the bridge-in-schools campaign the ACBL (American Contract Bridge League). I HAVE blogged about such things in Bridge Table Chronicles (http://bridgetable.net).

    Actually, bridge has been what I call IN RETRO since the 90s–making a comeback–but it IS a struggle amongst the young, competing as it must with the world of electronic games.

    There are actually TWO entirely different worlds of bridge. The serious competitive world (reflected in Card Turner) and the kind I’ve played for fifty years (ladies-only-bridge-club-sociable-bridge). Either game is one of the best social skills ever to add to your life–once learned, lasts a lifetime and some scientists evenI say, lets you get to age 90 (I’m 91) dementia-free.

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