The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

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The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai
Author: Helen DeWitt
ISBN-13: 978-1784707965
Publisher: Vintage
Guideline Price: £8.99

You walk into a book due to an Akira Kurosawa link and your fondness for the the great film-maker. You walk out, staggered by the book’s originality and bravery, staggered by its sheer didacticism (by default of the reader, almost).

Here I lie, with The Last Samurai. Yet the bones forming the spine of this tale are nothing extraordinary: a single mother raising her son, educating him at home; the boy developing a natural desire to discover the identity of his father.

What distinguishes the story in DeWitt’s clever hands is Ludo being a child prodigy (reading Greek, Japanese, Arabic, and Hebrew, aged four), while polymathic mum Sibylla is no slouch either (Kurosawa link: she loops The Seven Samurai so Ludo has male role models).

This is a strange book, with strange charm, and DeWitt launched the literary kitchen sink at it. It should be read by everyone for its splash factor alone, although it will not be enjoyed by everyone. But, like all good samurai, it will finish you, before you can finish it.