Book: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Genre: Literary Fiction
For: review request and ARC Challenge
From: ARC sent by publisher (Random House/Spiegel and Grau)
Release Date: Today (April 13)
Wow. I don't even know where to start on this one! When it appeared in the mail, out of the blue, I was so excited! I'm a huge Life of Pi fan, and so I was really looking forward to this one. But... I must say, I was a little disappointed. It's so different, and it has me baffled.
Still, when I finished it last night, once again, my chin was on the floor, but for completely different reasons than with Life of Pi. Which basically means, the ability this author has to shock a reader is definitely one of his trademarks!
The premise of the book is very simple. It's about Henry, an author, who's having a bit of struggle with his current book. So, he pretty much drops everything and moves with his wife to a big city. There, he meets a taxidermist who requests his help with a play he's writing. Henry gets all involved in this play and tries to figure out the crazy taxidermist. What he learns in the end is the reader shock moment... well, part of it.
So, the first part was interesting, the struggling author's musings and etc. As with Life of Pi, it feels like you are just reading a journal entry and that this is just the author telling his experiences. Which, I'm thinking is partially true. But then, for me it lagged a bit when we start in with the taxidermist's play, the one about Beatrice (a donkey) and Virgil (a monkey.) I could tell there was a point trying to be made, but it was going right over my clueless head.
Then, suddenly, the point is made quite obvious. There are several scenes that are extremely disturbing, and I was thinking, "why am I reading this?" Then there's that shocking ending, well, as I said before, a couple of shocks actually, and I was left with the a feeling like I was hit in the gut.
Which is the feeling I think he was going for all along!
My reaction was to throw the book on the floor and say "Well, that was the weirdest book I've read in a long time!"
I'm being purposefully vague because if you choose to read this book and you know it all before starting, you won't really have this reaction. I'm sure many reviews will just come right out and say what happens and what it's about, but you won't find that here.
In the end, as I said, I was a little disappointed. But, still, even with this short little book, I managed to go through a huge range of emotions, and there's something to be said for that.
Bottom line: It was a unique reading experience!
For more about the book, click here on its very own website.
Click here for more about author Yann Martel.
Here's a video with Yann Martel talking about the book if you are interested:
The Crowded Leaf
The Book Lady's Blog
Tales of a Capricious Reader