The Half Brother Paperback – 1 Jan 2003
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'A multitude of magic moments' * Dagbladet * 'At Frankfurt, Arcadia trounced rivals with a pre-emptive bid for World English rights to The Half-Brother' * Bookseller *
Fred made a deep sigh and I was afraid he would get cross again. I could have bitten my tongue off and swallowed it. But instead he put his arm around me, while squeezing the last drop from the bag of syrup into the gutter. 'Do you remember what I asked you yesterday?' he asked. I quickly nod, almost too afraid to breathe. 'No,' I whisper. 'No? Don't you remember?' I do remember. But I don't want to remember. And I can't forget it either. I'd rather wish that Fred hadn't started talking again after all. 'No, Fred.' 'Do you want me to ask you again?' I whisper, 'Yes'. And Fred grins. He's not cross, not when he's grinning like that. 'Do you want me to kill your father for you, Barnum?' he asks. My name is Barnum. Barnum and Fred are half-brothers, growing up in sixties Oslo. Barnum seems to have stopped growing, while his half-brother, frustrated by learning difficulties, is sent away to a special school. Theirs is an ordinary Norwegian family of the time, set apart by extraordinary family members.Their father is no better than a con man, giving the appearance of a travelling salesman; while the three woman in the family (mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, the 'Old One') are all unwed mothers. Then the Old One is killed by a hit and run driver - and Fred becomes mute as a result. The two half-brothers embark on their separate courses, Fred becoming a boxer and Barnum a scriptwriter, hoping to create a new genre in film, 'the northern' (as opposed to 'western'). The brothers won't meet again until at their mother's deathbed, many years later... See all Product description
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Zan recovered, Zan was signing well and would often ask for a hug from Ben, Times Magazine were to do an article, Bens parents paid Ben for the time he spent with Zan, Zan loved to wash up, a grant to help with costs was turned down, they needed quicker results, Zan was to be strapped to a chair for part of the day, he hated it and Ben and one of the students Peter didn't like it, Zan bites Ryan another student but it is not Zans fault, Ryan was treating him badly, the chair was taken away, a man known as Jaworsky arrived to work with Zan a speech specialist, Jaworsky decided Zan was only mimicking and the project was to be closed down and Zan sold, Ben considered Zan his brother and was very upset
Zan was sold to a chimp sanctuary, Zan had never seen another chimp, Peter one of the students went with him, they were assured that Zan would be treated well but this was soon to be proved lies, Peter found a letter saying Zan and two other chimps had been sold for medical experiments, Ben decided to steal Zan and from here you must read on
My verdict, I liked this book, well written and a good story
However, the magic of this book is perhaps not so much in the words used but in what is left unsaid. People of all ages can find something worthwhile in this book and most importantly be challenged.
For me, the prevailing theme was determinism/freewill. Is chemistry the 'signalman' of our relationships; unpredictably connecting and disconnecting us from the next person? What is to be said of family; surely their successes, malfunctions and destructions are founded upon more than just genetic similarities? Finally, Half Brother evokes unsettling questions concerning the rights and responsibilities of family and animals. Commendably, Oppel raises profound moral questions but lets the reader make up their own mind.
A brilliant book which masterfully creates intellectual turmoil. I found an emotional rollercoaster. Read it and see what you discover!
When I received an ARC for review I was over the moon and couldn't wait to start reading it. I fell in love with the story from page one and it just got better and better as the novel progressed. Half Brother is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of the year, if not of all time and I absolutely have to insist that you all read it when it comes out in January, even if you think it might not be your cup of tea.
The characters are wonderful and truly unique. Ben is so brilliantly whole and it's clear the writer paid so much attention to detail when he was crafting the Tomlin family. Ben's father is first and foremost a scientist, so when Ben and his mother are cooing over baby Zan, he treats the chimp like a test subject and nothing more. It's really fascinating to see how the different family members bond with Zan. At first Ben is wary of the chimp but he's soon charmed by him and within a few months they're inseparable and Mrs Tomlin takes on the role of Zan's surrogate mother perfectly. Throw in Peter - one of Zan's student carers and you have a host of unforgettable characters.
The subplot of Ben's mission to make Jennifer his girlfriend (the `Project Jennifer' updates made me laugh out loud) is really entertaining and doesn't detract from the main plot at all. In fact, Ben's struggle to fit in in his new surroundings, with an entirely new group of peers, just added to the story as a whole.
However, Half Brother's strength lays in its realism and this does make for heartbreaking reading at times. It's not smooth sailing 100% of the time for Zan and his human family and the best advice I can give you is to have tissues at the ready. God knows when I finished the book I had mascara crusted to my cheeks and puffy eyes. Nice.
Kenneth Oppel's touching writing will break your heart but the tears are worth it. Half Brother is an absolutely outstanding novel that is sure to be one of the huge hits of 2011. I honestly can't recommend it enough. Why are you still here? Go and order a copy now!