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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 27 August 2017
Quite slow at the beginning but you'll get into it.
5* Best Bridge book ever if there are even others ;)
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on 7 June 2012
As you've probably already gathered, the central narrative conceit at the heart of this novel is the exciting and fascinating game of... CONTRACT BRIDGE..!! In plumping for such an obscure point of reference, it's a shame that Sachar (or perhaps his publisher...) turns out to be something of an apologist (there are lots of bits that you're encouraged to skip if you find them too boring/difficult/irrelevant), but unfortunately there's a similarly half-hearted feel to the rest of the novel too.

There *is* a great yarn in there - the great uncle's noir-ish back story of corrupt high society - but you only get to it by plodding through the distinctly suburban musings of a painfully unremarkable teen protagonist. Hey-ho.

However, the real 'wince' moment comes when Sachar introduces a frankly laughable supernatural element to the plot about two thirds of the way through (and nothing like the nuanced, myth-mingling-with-reality, echoes-of-history, magic-y-realist thing he does so wonderfully in 'Holes'). Everything from this point onwards hinges on the reader accepting a truly sloppy narrative premise... which I entirely failed to do (and so will many other readers, I fear).

One for die-hard Sachar fans only.
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Louis Sachar is a talented writer of books for young children. This book, The Cardturner, is pitched at a slightly older, teenage audience. It's not that it has salacious details or violence, but that the sections on Bridge, which sandwich together the narrative, will probably be far too complex, even in the simple terms in which Sachar explains them, to appeal to the patience of a younger audience.

I am not a bridge player, and I found it hard going at times. If you are a bridge player I would imagine you will find this fascinating.

The story focuses on Alton, a teenage boy whose parents encourage him to suck up to a rich uncle they expect to leave them a fortune in his will, by turning his cards for him during his weekly bridge games. Alton's uncle is rich, curmudgeonly and incredibly gifted at bridge.

What starts out as a grudging favour for his pushy parents, propels Alton into a new world that he finds fascinating and complex relationships which spell the start of a new existence for him.

I loved the story, struggled with the bridge, but thought it was well worth the read anyway.
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on 2 September 2011
I once went to a bridge evening at a family friend's house without knowing the first thing about the game and spent the majority of the evening putting down any random card and hoping that I'd somehow get lucky with that strategy. Needless to say my partner and I came last. If only I had read this book before that evening. Not only would I completely understand how the game works but I would also understand that bridge is not a boring old game played by little old ladies, it is an epic trial of wit and strategy that inspires a great passion and obsession in its players. It's definitely one of those games that gets judged very harshly by those who don't know how to play it but in The Cardturner, Louis Sachar has taken this humble card game and given it the struggling-team-tentatively-enter-competition-then-go-on-to-win-the-nationals treatment with a wonderfully original twist that makes the game thoroughly relevant to a young adult (and adult!) audience.

The story is told through the eyes of 17 year old Alton who is at that point in his life where he doesn't commit fully to anything in particular. It is told as if Alton is telling the reader a story off the cuff which I think makes Alton even more vivid in your mind and makes him easy to like. There's a wonderful contrast between Alton and his money-centric parents who, throughout Alton's life, have been using him and his younger sister to suck up to rich Uncle Lester to ensure their place in his will without actually being good relations. The relationship, particularly between Alton's mother and Uncle Lester, is entirely material but as Alton gets to know his uncle it really feels like he genuinely cares. There's a real sense of growth in their relationship and although Uncle Lester continually tries to outsmart his nephew you can actually see that he cares enough to give Alton some valuable life lessons which he in turn pays attention to. This is what I really like about Louis Sachar's characters, they are so subtle and life-like, there are no sudden changes in attitude - one minute they hate each other the next they are best friends - he really concentrates on the way people gradually come to a mutual understanding.

Of course, this story is not just about bridge, there is a gripping intrigue that runs through the book of family secrets. As they are unlocked, Alton gradually sees through his parents' prejudices and finds the true nature of his uncle and understands why he is the way he is. There are also echoes of the Karate Kid about this story with Alton eager to learn but his uncle refusing to teach him, all the while teaching him indirectly - except wax on wax off has been replaced by turning cards.

The Cardturner is a truly heart-warming story about what it really means to be family and about triumph in the face of adversity. You'll be missing out if you are put off by the fact that the story revolves around bridge because it is anything but boring. I mean, this is Louis Sachar we're talking about here, that man could make the phone book gripping!
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on 4 March 2013
I'm sure that there are a lot of niche books on the market about learning to play Bridge, but none will be as entertaining, as funny and as moving as Louis Sachar's 'The Cardturner' which convinces me that Sachar is not only a great novelist for young people but a great novelist full stop. And of course it's not really about Bridge. Well, it is actually, and even if you find cardgame rules a big turnoff, it won't really matter because Sachar's ahead of you here and handily gives pointers to skip these passages if you wish. There's even an appendix which includes a transcript of a fake lecture given by one of the characters, and references to some of the more arcane terminology and phrasing used in certain passages. Put it this way, I wouldn't bet money again Sachar, he never lets up for a moment.
If it all sounds somewhat a tad dry and academic, this couldn't be further from the truth, it's a highly emotional read which sees the teenage protagonist Alton go through a life changing experience after forging a relationship with his uncle Lester, and even the minor characters come across as fully rounded individuals. The plot is labyrinthine and includes references to the President Nixon era. It all culminates in a kind of happy ending, even though for two of the character this is a vicarious experience. There's an awful lot going on here, about lost opportunities and regaining the past.
Sachar's 'Holes' became a successful film, and this, I think, is crying out for similar treatment, by someone like Wes Anderson maybe, with Alan Arkin as Lester? Now who'll start the bidding?
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on 29 August 2011
The first word that comes to mind when i think of this book is "charming".

Obviously i won't describe what happens in the book, like the typical review. I figured if you're reading this it's because you want to see others opinion of the book. You probably already have a fair idea of what this book is about. If you do want a summary, then i apologise. Meanwhile...

I have literally JUST put this book down, so i still have the awesome vibe you have when you have just finished a good book.
This book is slightly pointless, but undeniably brilliant. I loved Alton, Toni, and especially uncle lester, or "Trap" as he's also called. Some of the conversations had between alton and Uncle Lester were surprisingly enlightening. It was these little parts of the book that really made it glow. I loved the whole "dog listening to radio" concept.

The book does take a sudden turn to supernatural about a third of the way through, which is both unexpected, yet awesome. I mean the author could have shoved in a quick chapter about an alien attack, and i still would have thought it brilliant.

Every character was alive, and had this amazing presence on the page. And as Uncle Lester said, it is the "idea" of a person that exists after their death. It is the "idea" of the person that lives on, once the body has failed. Therefore, these characters could be seen as real as anyone, as long as people perceive the idea of them. As you may be able to tell, this book encourages diverse thinking...

Louis Sachar is a phenomenal storyteller. And whilst this may not be one of those really memorable stories, full of epic moments, and a sweeping romance, it is a story nonetheless. And it still earns a high ranking amongst my books.

4.2 stars. (the extra 0.2 just sounds right. shh). ;)(less) [edit]
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on 16 July 2010
"Talk About Wow" is the title of one of the chapters in THE CARDTURNER by Louis Sachar. It is also the perfect way to describe this book. I was hooked on the very first page and read the thing in a single day. My recommendation is - Don't Miss It!

With that said, many readers could be scared away by THE CARDTURNER. The story revolves around the card game of bridge. The book is filled with in-depth information and detailed descriptions of the game. But don't let that frighten you off. There is soooo much more to enjoy.

Alton Richards isn't really looking forward to the summer between his junior and senior year. He knows he should look for a job but can't seem to get motivated. There won't be any swimming in the backyard pool because it's still just a hole in the ground awaiting the final outcome of some lawsuit between his parents and the pool company. Alton's dad has also just broken the news that the insulation company he works for is downsizing, which means he's out of a job. And don't forget, Alton's girlfriend just dumped him. Great way to kick off summer vacation.

Just when Alton thinks things can't get anymore dismal, he learns that his "favorite" uncle, Lester Trapp, has requested his presence. Alton has been to his uncle's hilltop home only once before. It was the elderly Trapp's birthday, and Alton was just five years old at the time. Since Alton knows his parents are hoping for a huge inheritance when the old guy's time comes, he knows he must answer the call and find out what the old man wants.

A cardturner? What is that? Lester Trapp, who is now blind due to complications from diabetes, wants Alton to help him play bridge. Trapp wants his young nephew to accompany him to his bridge club to read off the cards in his hand and play for him during the games. Alton knows nothing about bridge, but he is about to learn. He is also about to learn some of his family's darkest secrets.

Using first-person narrative, author Louis Sachar takes readers into the world of bridge. Alton is an incredibly likeable main character with a wonderful sense of humor even when thrown into the most challenging circumstances. As he explains his eccentric uncle and other crazy members of the cast, he also teaches the basics of bridge. Scattered throughout the story are informational sections about the game. I agree with a previous review of THE CARDTURNER, posted at Guys Lit Wire, that these sections can be skipped if readers desire, but I found that even though I was confused, I wanted to read them to gain knowledge of this mysterious game.

I'm not going to run out and start playing bridge, but thanks to Sachar, I can now appreciate the dedication and seriousness true players have for the game. Whatever you might feel about the game of bridge, THE CARDTURNER is a heartwarming and attention-grabbing novel. Even though this is billed as YA fiction, I'm passing it on to a bridge-playing friend of my mother's, and I know she's going to love it.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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on 5 March 2012
A rich, mysterious, cantankerous uncle. A hint about cards. Was I the only reader who, forgetting the blurb on Amazon, briefly thought I was about to read a book about a magician (stage or otherwise)?

But nope, this is a book about the card game Bridge. It also has a story - a very neat and nice story about a teenager and the uncle he is meant to endear himself to for the inheritance. But primarily, this is a book trying to get young people interested in the idea of Bridge.

Well, I thought a lot of the Bridge stuff went way above my head. It's a bit like the latter chapters of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother in that regard: you sort of feel you've been learning and understanding a lot, some of it quite complicated to envision in your head, and then it just breaks through the threshold of "I can follow this" and into the territory of "I'm a bit lost, but carried along by the story".

There are various questions that formed in my mind (how much dialogue can there really be, in the bidding process - it only goes through two or three iterations in all the examples in this novel, so hardly enough to make meaningful communication possible! And how can it be rewarding to play a turn based strategic battle game that can only last through 13 turns? Etc.) - but there is enough excitement in the story, and a sense of the panache involved in some of the Bridge manoeuvres, that I really enjoyed the novel.

OK, so like Holes(the other Louis Sachar novel I've read), there seems to be a bit too much affection for neatness. Holes had various back stories that all tidy up nicely in a way that makes the novel feel like destiny. The cardturner allows itself a rather large dollop of creative freedom in its interpretation of schizophrenia / ghosts...

But it's a beautiful novel, nonetheless. It's for young people, but I loved reading it, even if I felt that the story was a little too neat and cute for its own good. (That said, there were some jolts that I felt quite acutely as a reader, moments when the story had big impact in not entirely the expected way).

One flaw were the asides to the reader - each time the author writes something like "if I were a better writer, I'd have..." or otherwise acknowledges the writer / reader interface, I feel a little annoyed.

Still, I'd recommend this book. It's a cracking read.
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on 8 August 2011
I thought this book would be hard to understand for me - who rarely ever plays card games and had never even heard of Bridge before - but the author explains it clearly, with diagrams, and gradually, spread throughout the book. I found myself understanding most of the situations, although I did have to spend a while staring at the pages to figure it out! So don't be put off if you have no experience in cards, and if you really want, the author makes it possible to read the book whilst skipping the technical Bridge details. If you are a Bridge player, you will enjoy this book :).

I have read two other of Louis Sachar's books so I was expecting a humourous, light novel that you won't get bored of, and I got that. Some parts of it even made me laugh a little, yet this book is also quite touching and has sad elements.

At some parts it was predictable, but not too predictable to make it a boring read.

It is simply about a boy who helps his blind uncle, who he didn't really know that much, playing Bridge and finds himself enjoying the game himself. His family want him to get close to Uncle Lester and possibly hint to him that they would like some of his money once he dies, but Alton is intrigued with the history of his family and Lester.

Once I had read this book, and my sister, who also enjoyed it, had finished it, we tried to play Bridge online as a joke, really, and although we did really rubbish, it was funny that we understood - kind of - what was going on.

This book isn't a How-To-Play-Bridge book, but if you are learning Bridge or already know how to play it, you will enjoy it. The same goes for any Louis Sachar fans, whether you like Bridge or not, and anybody else from the age of 14 who can appreciate good books!
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on 5 August 2013
This book is amazing is a must read. It is about a boy who's uncle plays bridge and there is a lot of bridge language but Louis Sachar did it cleverly so that if you don't want to read it you can skip ahead and read a little box at the end that basically sums it all up. It is a great book as it makes you change your mind about the characters if you know what I mean so say you didn't like the uncle at the beginning you sort of grow to like him during the book.

I think its good for all ages as I am 11 and I really like it as I had already read Holes and then small steps which is the second sequel to it but cardturner as nothing to do with either of those books. I got my copy of the book from my local library but I enjoyed it so much that I got a new copy for my self as it was sooooooooo good! It is not just about bridge it is about the relation ship between a nephew and his uncle and the people the boy meets lead him into trouble and them he begins to think he can hear people talking to him in his mind but I cant tell you anymore otherwise there is no point in you reading the book!

When you have read this book hopefully you will agree with me and encourage other people to read this book!

By Pippa Emms.
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