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The Last Samuraiby Helen Dewitt
This multi-faceted novel is the story of a baffled mother raising a genius (how do you teach the Greek alphabet to an insistent four-year-old?), as well as an enthusiastic tribute to the classic Kurosawa film Seven Samurai. It's also the odyssey of a boy searching for his mysterious father; in the process, his quest for knowledge takes him anywhere and everywhere, and one of the things I really love about this book is its whimsical unpredictability. I was drawn in from the beginning, and found it very hard to put down!
Synopses & Reviews
Moving, funny and startlingly original, The Last Samurai has been sold in fourteen countries and is destined to become a cult classic.
Ludo, age six, is a prodigy. His mother, Sibylla, raises him alone and tries hard to keep his voracious intellect satisfied, while she struggles to make ends meet. With her exasperated guidance, he teaches himself Greek, so that he can read The Odyssey, before moving on to study Hebrew, Arabic, Inuit, and Japanese. And both Sibylla and Ludo share a passion for Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, which they watch repeatedly, absorbing its lessons of samurai virtue. Soon Ludo embarks on a quest to find his father, and approaches seven men to test their mettle. Each of them ? prominent, powerful, or flawed in his own way ? has to rise to a unique challenge.
The Last Samurai is full of stories of remarkable exploits, snatches of Greek poetry, passages of Icelandic legend, and ingenious math problems. But it also has a rare emotional depth, as Ludo's search for a father, or even a man heroic enough to be his father, gradually reveals a new and unexpected dimension of love. And at the book's heart is the relationship between mother and son, which is moving and memorable in its fusion of solidarity, frustration, and tenderness.
"The Last Samurai may be the find of the season. I loved the confident velocity as well as the promise of heady unconventionality. The spell sustained itself. Within pages I found myself caught up in the strangest and most gratifying intellectual novel I've read since Norman Rush's Mating and Nicholas Mosely's Hopeful Monsters...crisp and vivid...The Last Samurai is very much the story of an education, an arduous discovery of self..." The Boston Globe
The Last Samurai is one of the most original first novels to appear in many years. A brilliant and moving epic, it charts the adventure of a little boy who goes in search of his father.
Sibylla, an American living in London, is raising her son Ludo, age 6, who has the peculiar misfortune to be a genius. Ludo reads the Odyssey in the original (causing raised eyebrows on the Tube), teaches himself Hebrew, Arabic and Icelandic in order to read the great epics of world literature and pleads with his mother to teach him Japanese. Like his mother, Ludo is a Kurosawa fan, watching the Last Samurai over and over again, memorizing the dialogue and reflecting on the Samurai code. When Ludo decides to search out his true father he approaches a number of eminent men and tests their Samurai mettle. Each of the men, prominent and powerful in their own way, has to rise to a unique challenge.
An intellectual tour-de-force, playful, multi-layered but wonderfully readable, The Last Samurai is full of stories of remarkable exploits, tables of Japanese grammar, snatches of Greek poetry, passages of Icelandic legend and ingenious maths problems. But it also has a rare emotional depth, as the little boy's search for a father, or even a man heroic enough to be his father, gradually reveals a new and unexpected dimension of love. And at the book's heart is a relationship, that between Sibylla and Ludo, which is moving and oddly memorable in its fusion of solidarity, frustration and tenderness.
An intellectual tour-de-force, playful, multilayered, and wonderfully readable, "The Last Samurai" is full of stories of remarkable exploits, tables of Japanese grammar, snatches of Greek poetry, passages of Icelandic legend, and ingenious math problems. It is also the tale of a six-year-old child prodigy's search for a father, or even a man heroic enough to be his father, gradually revealing a new and unexpected dimension of love.
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