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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
My Brother Simple
by Marie-Aude Murail
Age Range: 12+
Kleber is a sixth form student in Paris. We join the seventeen-year-old as he searches for a flatshare, a challenge which is made rather more problematic by the fact that he is also bringing his elder brother Barnaby (or ‘Simple’). Simple has learning difficulties and while their father wants to see him packed off to a dismal institution called Malicroix, this is an idea Kleber is resolutely determined to avoid.
The book follows the two brothers as they move into a rowdy student flat, home to much drama, drunken carousing and sexual tension. The students and the wider community are unsure what to make of the new arrivals, but all of them are to find that the two brothers will touch their lives and change their attitudes to disability.
This is a highly original novel which succeeds in being far more than a standard ‘coming of age’ tale. Simple is a young man with an ability to see things differently, demonstrating enviable levels of logic, honesty and humour and successfully peeling away the pride and superficiality behind which other characters try to hide.
It is worth noting that some of the terminology may grate (such as terms like 'mute', 'handicapped' and 'spaz') and the statement that Simple has a ‘mental age of three’ is rather unfortunate. However these reservations about language and terminology aside, readers are sure to be won over by the unquestionable charm of My Brother Simple.
NB: this book contains some adult themes.