Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner

I’ve never been much for card games — hearts, poker, bridge all seem to be part of a world that has a language I simply cannot learn.  I suspect numbers are part of it — being able to count quickly and efficiently in my head, being able to see/hear a sequence of numbers and remember them, being able to do various simple operations accurately in my head.  Can’t do any of it.  As a result when I read that Louis Sachar’s latest book was about bridge, I stayed away for quite a while.  Until a respected friend’s enthusiasm got me curious.  So I read it a while back and liked it tremendously.

The Cardturner is the story of 17 year-old Alton who ends up with a summer job as his elderly blind uncle’s cardturner at various bridge tournaments. Pushed by his parents who think his doing so will put them in the running for the dying man’s money, amiable Alton observes the workings of bridge, the world of competitive bridge, and the various personal relationships of that world.  Spilling out and around the cards are stories of family, loss, and love some of which end up including Alton.  There’s a sweetheart of a younger sister, a slippery best friend, and a very intriguing love interest.  Not to mention an I-didn’t-see-this-coming twist at the end.

Confession time — I took Alton’s advice. After noting that he was unable to finish Moby Dick because of the endless stuff about whales he writes, “So here’s the deal. Whenever you see the picture of the whale, it means I’m about to go into some detail about bridge. If that makes you zone out just skip ahead to the summary box and I’ll give you the short version.” Me? After trying a few long versions I gave up and then stuck with the short versions.  Because of this I  wasn’t going to write a post about the book because I felt weird doing so having not read every word. But then I figured that there might be other readers out there like me, those who are staying away because bridge leaves them cold.  And so here I am waxing enthusiastic about this book because the writer gave me a way to read it that made it work for not-interested-in-bridge-me.  And so I say to those of you like me  —take a chance and read this book, skipping the long versions with impunity. Hopefully, you’ll be glad you did!

Sachar’s latest, a charming and unique book.



Filed under YA

11 responses to “Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner

  1. I think I need to send this book to my mom and her many bridge-playing friends! They truly speak another language!


  2. I read this one with my ears. It was narrated by the author and the “whale” sections were marked by a foghorn. I tried listening to the explanations, but ended up mostly zoning out. And that afterword? Fuggedaboudit. I enjoy Louis Sachar’s narrative style – kind of laid back and sad sackish.



  3. Brenda, so you are saying that it didn’t end up working for you?


    • No, it did. I thought it was very clever. Had I been reading with my eyes, I would’ve done what you did. I liked the book very much, found much of it very touching.

      Sorry if I wasn’t clear.



  4. Jen

    It’s Louis Sachar, not Louise.


  5. Argh! Thanks, Jen. (See my Mistakes Happen post if you want to know my feelings about this:)


  6. Laura

    I’m delighted that you reviewed this as a non bridge-player. I adored this book, but then, I play bridge. Sachar knows how to explain the game with wonderful clarity, and he knows how to describe individual hands in a way that left me panting for more. I passed the book on to my bridge-playing friends, and they loved it as much as I did. All the same, we couldn’t help wondering whether it would work if you didn’t play bridge. On the one hand, the characters are sympathetic, the plot suspenseful, and the humor delicious–but on the other hand, there is a LOT of bridge in this book. Apparently, it works either ways. Hooray for Louis Sachar, who bid slam and made it!


  7. Maureen

    While I have not yet read Sachar’s latest, my 12-year-old son devoured it in a day (whales and all) this summer and is keen to learn bridge now.


  8. So glad you read and posted about this! I’d been wondering about the book, but like you, have never been into card games. But I love Louis Sachar. So now I can’t wait to read it. How clever is that…about the whale warning!


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