Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Book: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: B+
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:

Other Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews
The Crowded Leaf
The Book Lady's Blog
Tales of a Capricious Reader


  1. It certainly is a unique reading experience, and, if nothing else, Martel has succeeded in getting us all talking!

  2. Life of Pi is seriously probably the strangest book I've ever read. I still can't figure that book out.

    So I expected this one to be utterly bizarre too.... which leaves me with mixed feelings about reading it... I'm not sure I want to be that confused again!

  3. I haven't decided if I want to read this yet or not, but I have heard some intriguing things about it.

  4. It does sound very strange, but now you've got me really curious! I did enjoy Life of Pi, so I think I'll check this one out.

  5. Is this one going to turn out like Dahl's The Landlady?? Taxidermist made me leap to that conclusion.

    I loved Pi. I'll have to take a look.

  6. Hmm. I'm also a big fan of Life of Pi so I was excited to see that Yann Martel had another book coming out. I'm not sure if I'll read this one or not, though. I'm really not in the mood for "disturbing" right now. Maybe another time.

  7. Hmm. I'm also a big fan of Life of Pi so I was excited to see that Yann Martel had another book coming out. I'm not sure if I'll read this one or not, though. I'm really not in the mood for "disturbing" right now. Maybe another time.

  8. Wow--I'm not quite sure what to make of this one after your review and Rebecca's over at Book Lady's Blog. I'd say I should read Life of Pi first but apparently it might be better to save that to look forward to.

  9. Loved Life of Pi -- it is still a book that our book club talks about as one of our most favorite to discuss.
    I echo Lisa in the above comment: after your's and Rebecca's reviews, not sure I will venture out with this new one.

  10. Much Becket ("Waiting for Godot")and some Kafka ("The Trial"). It left me disturbed, but I am glad I read it. Unlike Pi there is no ambiguity about what happened, but the "why" will keep you pondering.

  11. It makes me nervous if I'm turning people away from this book! What if you love it??? I say, if you've read Life of Pi, just try this one and see what you think. If you haven't read Life of Pi... go read THAT one now! :)

  12. Everyone keeps telling me "You must read Life of Pi", asking me "Why haven't you read Life of Pi?" I am beginning to think I'm missing something. It's just that my TBR list is so long as it is, the daunting task of adding even more... well, it makes me feel very tired. (Mentally satisfied, but tired.)
    Maybe I should throw a curve ball and read this one instead.

    -Lydia @ The Literary Lollipop

  13. I loved Life of PI, and your comments have made me curious to read his latest. To anyone out Here In La La land - Yann Martel will be at the LA Times Festival of Books at UCLA next Weekend. I hope to see him there. By the way, my book club did end up passing on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - we will be reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo next.

  14. I'm not reading your review b/c I'm afraid it will spoil the book for me and I can't wait to read this one!



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