Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann MartelI’m going to do this a little differently than I usually do reviews because, quite frankly, my reaction to this book was a little different than I usually experience when reading a book. Very rarely am I ambivalent about something I’ve read. Love it or hate it – or so despise it I don’t even finish – my feelings about what I read are usually crystal clear. And yet, days after finishing Beatrice and Virgil I still can’t decide: do I love it, or hate it?

Of those who actually read, I may well be one of the few humans left on the planet who has not yet read Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize winning novel Life of Pi. Everyone I know who has read it raves about it, so when I was offered the chance to read Martel’s most recent offering Beatrice and Virgil, which sounded like it had a very similar presentation stylistically, I took it.

I knew something was off when, shortly after I started reading it, my husband asked me how the book was and the first – and only – word out of my mouth was “weird.” At the time I was about 60 pages into the book and, quite honestly, very seriously thinking about giving up on it. So far all I’d learned, in painstaking detail, was that a renowned author named Henry had given up writing after a book he had been working on for 5 years was soundly rejected by his agent and publisher. Having packed up his wife and moved to a major, yet unnamed city, Henry was living a jolly old life working in a chocolatería, responding to fan mail, and acting with an amateur theater company. Um, ok.

Things start to pick up, a little, when Henry gets a letter from a local fan with a short story by Flaubert, a few pages from an uncredited play involving two characters (Beatrice & Virgil), and a cryptic request for help enclosed. His curiosity piqued, Henry writes a response and hand delivers it to the return address, which he discovers is a taxidermy shop. There he learns the shop’s proprietor is the author of the play, and that Beatrice and Virgil are two of his creations, literally. Beatrice is a donkey, Virgil a howler monkey, and both are specimens which have been fully preserved by the taxidermist.

It turns out the taxidermist, a very old man who is rather distant and not overly communicative, wants Henry’s help finishing the play, something he’s been working on virtually his entire life. At this point the book either actually gets interesting, or becomes irretrievably stupid depending on your point of view. Over a period of time the two work on the play, never in chronological order, and slowly the bigger picture of both the play and the book starts to take shape. Unfortunately, by this point we’re about 150 pages into a book that’s only 197 pages long. That’s way, way too long to make a reader wait, especially when what you’re ultimately trying to get to as an author is actually worthwhile.

The problem is Martel takes so long getting to the endgame (and Samuel Beckett’s influence is blatantly present, with “Endgame” as well as “Waiting for Godot” and “The Unnamable” all seeping in) that the conclusion feels both rushed and terribly at odds with the majority of the book. The story that unfolds over the first 174 pages is slow and winding, open to interpretation and indirect. The final 23 pages explode in a blunt, furious, quite graphic description of events that removes any doubt that may have remained about the book – and play presented within it – being an allegorical tale of the Holocaust.

There’s no question what Martel is trying to accomplish with Beatrice and Virgil is laudable; an interpretation of the Holocaust told from an entirely artistic, fictional perspective. Unfortunately, in his desire to be unconventionally creative about such a serious topic the message gets a bit lost in the sheer outrageousness of the story, and many readers will end up feeling betrayed at how drastically the book changes tone in its final pages. I actually liked the ending, much more so than the 174 pages it took to set it up, and think Martel would have been better served either sticking with his initial delivery throughout or writing the entire thing in the more aggressive tone that brings the book to its conclusion.

So where does that leave me? Well, I do keep thinking about this book, especially the questions posed as “Games for Gustav” in the epilogue. So on one hand, if for no other reason than it made me consider some rather disturbing philosophical questions, I enjoyed Beatrice and Virgil and don’t regret having read it. On the other hand, if I had known before reading it what I know now about Beatrice and Virgil I doubt I would have read it.

How about you? If you’ve read Beatrice and Virgil I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Similarly, if you’ve read Life of Pi please give me your best pitch for why I should still give it a shot despite my incredibly mixed experience with Beatrice and Virgil.

Beatrice and Virgil is available from Spiegel & Grau (ISBN: 978-0812981544).

Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963. After studying philosophy at university, he worked odd jobs and traveled before turning to writing. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize winning novel Life of Pi, which was translated into forty-one languages and spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.



Be sure to check out all of Yann’s TLC Book Tours Tour Stops.

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40 Comments

  • Cheryl LaFortune

    April 25, 2013 - 8:21 am

    I came upon your review as I was trying to decide if I should recommended Beatrice and Virgil to my daughter of 27 years who was looking for a book of inspiration and escape. Her life of work is hard and long, full of managing people. She just finished the Life Of Pi and it was a good book in an uncommon, magical and mystical way. I loved the symbolic journey and the images. I could wrap my mind around them and digest the full meal of life.

    For me, Yann Martel in Beatrice and Virgil captured a place in my life – resting on one’s laurels after a major career disappointment, enjoying the peace and choices that come with good work that lasts beyond the moment, and a little hum drum after life shoots off fireworks in your pajamas. Had I known where the story was going, I would not have read it, picked it up, or finished it. He lured me in and then came the sudden jolt of, “Oh, my ever loving God, I get it!” moment that woke me up, shook me up, unearthed my consciousness from the grave and said, “Run!!!!!” Then it reminded me that I am alive and I need to change.

    Beatrice and Virgil blew me over and knocked me down to earth, an earth I do not always like being a part, but I am exquisitely interconnected.

  • Sophie

    February 16, 2013 - 2:22 am

    Thank you Elizabeth. You helped me make a tiny bit of sense of the most bizarre path of Beatrice and Virgil. I too was a little bowled over by the speedy ending and the switch in character of the taxidermist that led him to his final actions. A meander of a tale that made me love these two little characters was sent into roller coaster of a free fall. How strange it was… I have never needed to research the thoughts of others so immediately at the close of a book. Yan Martel! How does he come up with these ideas? A truly unique teller of tales.
    My advice on Pi is read it… For a fabulous journey that uses words and descriptions in a most magical way. I can still dip into it and enjoy a sentence or two. What a gift the English language is.
    Now, what book next?

    • Elizabeth A. White

      February 18, 2013 - 1:02 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to stop in and share your thoughts. 🙂

  • Bailey Shea

    December 16, 2012 - 9:43 pm

    You should read Life of Pi. I warn you, stylistically and even structurally it is **very** much the same. It is larger though, broader in that I think it discusses all of life, more spiritual, and more vibrant. It is less disturbing, probably more beautiful, but just as weird. I’ve heard people call Beatrice and Virgil pretentious. Perhaps it is. I read Life of Pi first and just recently Beatrice and Virgil and I agree–because Martel’s style is so “weird” and because it is so manipulative of the reader’s suspension of belief and trust in the author, it is in a way pretentious. I felt this way more in Beatrice and Virgil, but I think this is because it was the second time I’d read Martel’s style. I don’t know if you felt this way about Beatrice and Virgil–I hope not–but hopefully Life of Pi won’t be ruined by some idea you have of Martel now as pretentious.
    Then again, I think it is easier to label Martel as pretentious when he discusses the Holocaust chillingly and amorally than in Life of Pi when he discusses…life and spirituality and culture and belief in rich language, not intriguing but cold language.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      December 18, 2012 - 1:21 pm

      Thank you, Bailey, for your input. It never ceases to amaze me how engaged people are – positive or negative – about Martel and his writing. I am sure I will get to Life of Pi at some point…how could I not after all this discussion. 😉

  • Richard Wilson

    November 7, 2012 - 5:24 pm

    I wanted to enjoy this book, but ultimately cannot say that I did. There were moments of wit and wisdom within. I found the characters of Beatrice and Virgil at times engaging and provocative, and the taxidermist was an enjoyable enigma at first. But for the most part, the book lacked continuity (particularly, as you point out, stylistically) and clarity of vision. Granted, some of this is intentional: Martel makes no attempt to disguise the fact that his book is allegorical, symbolizing the confusion and moral quandaries presented to the psyche by senseless violence. Ultimately I found this notion conveyed much better in the interaction between Henry and his own pets than by the outlandish and seemingly manipulative attempted murder at the end. Also, if the book is a meditation on survival, and art’s place in that struggle, I find the taxidermist’s willingness to simply destroy everything he has worked for decades to preserve utterly unbelievable. I am left feeling that a bit of violence has been done to the reader by the end of the work. If this is to be art, and art’s job is to interpret and reframe, then there is no need for the vulgarity and coarseness of the abundance of violence at the end. Also, much of the book seems to simply be filler: Henry’s wife and child are absolutely irrelevant players in the drama, and Martel’s descriptions tend toward the verbose, as indeed this response is now doing. On that note, I conclude with the statement that while Martel’s ambition is admirable and his themes at times shine through with poise and dignity, I do not feel the work as a whole was able to accomplish what was intended of it nor that it is a great and consistent a success as its acclaimed predecessor. Thanks for your eloquent and honest criticism. I am pleased to find that not everyone thinks the book a complete loss, and happy to find someone who did not seize the opportunity to kick an artist while he was down.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      November 7, 2012 - 6:02 pm

      Also, if the book is a meditation on survival, and art’s place in that struggle, I find the taxidermist’s willingness to simply destroy everything he has worked for decades to preserve utterly unbelievable.

      That’s a great point, one I had not specifically contemplated before. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on what continues to be a quite interesting book to discuss no matter how one shakes out in their opinion of it.

  • Erin

    August 24, 2012 - 1:51 pm

    I too have literally just put down the book and now been trawling the web reading reviews, trying to make sense of it. I can’t deny that the ending had a huge impact on me. I feel quite emotionally exhausted. I don’t regret reading it, even if just for the beautiful description of the taxidermist’s den of a shop when Henry first enters, and the huge punch packed by the ending. I was reading the end of the book on a bus, not a good idea as it did bring me to tears and I found myself looking at the people around me in horror. It reminded me of how ‘The Horrors’ of the real world can be so easily forgotten in every day life. Perhaps a ‘sewing list’ isn’t such a bad idea. Did you feel the same sense of dread throughout the book as I did when you were reading it? I knew something bad must be coming, I just didn’t know what. Thanks for your review, I really enjoyed reading it and will be sure to come back to your website again.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      August 24, 2012 - 8:03 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, I absolutely had an impending sense of dread while reading the book. Can’t say it took me where I was expecting to go necessarily, but then again…it definitely made me think in ways few other books have.

    • John Simon

      April 1, 2013 - 10:31 pm

      Hi Erin… I realize it’s many months after your post, but in the off chance you look back, I have a recommendation. While never living up to the first 100 pages, check out “The Passage”, by Justin Cronin. The beginning description of a poor young pregnancy is wonderful, and reminded me of the tax. shop description (which is why I’m recommending it, obviously). cheers

  • Marilyne

    August 20, 2012 - 12:13 am

    I just finished B&V and went online to figure out what i should take from it. Clearly from all the comments, people have different emotions when it comes to this book…

    First i would like to say i read Life of Pi before B&V, and therefore i feel safe in telling you that Life of Pi is a completely different experience.. in a similar way, if possible? I feel like Life of Pi was amazing, and because it was the first i read, it definitely stuck to me. To this day, i still remember it, after 3 years. I remember it vividly, and i can say it was one of the best books i picked up. But B&V, i really dont know how to feel, i will give it some days but who knows. I just want to encourage you to read Life of Pi, because i do feel its Martel’s better work. Maybe you would get a different experience, and therefore be able to see B&V in a different way after reading Life of Pi? But i would definitely love to hear your take on it if you ever come around to it. :]

    • Elizabeth A. White

      August 20, 2012 - 10:12 am

      Thank you for stopping by with your thoughts. Whether good, bad or puzzled, clearly the book strikes a nerve with people.

  • Lisa

    June 6, 2012 - 6:51 pm

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Firstly, I read Life of Pi, loved it, thought about it for a long time. I recommend it.
    Secondly, I finished reading B&V a week ago and have since been trawling reviews to help me to understand how I feel about this book. I say feel, because my first reaction to finishing B&V was totally emotional. I sat in my warm bath that had gone cold and I cried my eyes out. I am not immune to the Holocaust. I teach it to high school students, and I try to bear witness in the most honest way that a white Australian woman in her mid-thirties possibly can.

    I am torn between writing Martel a horribly nasty letter accusing him of tearing into the conventions of western story-telling like a rabid dog and of betraying me, a loyal reader to achieve a cathartic response; or writing a comprehensive and systematic review of the book applauding his intuitive ‘thrashing about’ of the narrative genre in order to ‘bear witness’ to the Holocaust. I think either would be appropriate 🙂

    Briefly, on the craft of B&V, he does tell a beautifully open-weave tale at the beginning, I think that is why the end, the final brutality described in the most pedestrian way, and followed by ‘Games for Gustav’ felt like it almost tore my face off.

    I think I am an advocate of ‘B&V’… who knows, it may even be taught in a south-western Sydney high school English class sometime soon (when I can get my head around it, or talk about it without tearing up.)

    Lisa

    • Elizabeth A. White

      June 7, 2012 - 5:13 pm

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. Love it or hate it the book definitely has an effect on people, that’s for sure.

  • Danielle A. Gillespie

    March 28, 2012 - 11:47 pm

    I read “life of Pi” and after my initial reaction of anger,I grew to love the novel. It is art. Similarily I had the same reaction with this novel. I would still classify it as art, but I literally just finished the book within the hour. I am feeling angry again. I can accept the book for what it is and what it tries to do, but is it necessary? I absolutely WOULD read Life of Pi. It is worth it and is a story not easily forgotten.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      March 29, 2012 - 9:50 am

      I do think I will eventually get around to it. Thanks for the comment. The fact this review continues to get comments over a year after it was first published shows how powerful the books are.

  • Amritorupa Kanjilal

    March 18, 2012 - 10:39 am

    Hello Elizabeth,
    I tried to comment on your book review for Beatrice and Virgil, but I think comments are closed on that post.
    I agree with most of your observations about B&V, and I wrote a review about it recently in my book blog, would you please come and see?
    http://riversihaveknown.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/beatrice-and-virgil-by-yann-martel-a-review/
    Please do read it and leave your comments, and if you like the blog, please do follow! it would be so cool to have you as a reader…
    Also, I read your recent reviews and loved them very much… subscribing to you now!
    Looking forward to seeing you at Rivers I Have Known.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      March 29, 2012 - 9:51 am

      Thank you for the kind words. I’ll drop by and check things out. 🙂

  • Jozef Mitchell

    April 6, 2011 - 12:57 am

    Perhaps we have all missed the point of the story, despite dutiful repetition of its purpose. I may err in assuming such, but in my minds eye, the book itself is an art piece that embodies the awkwardness, timing, confusion, and horror of the holocaust. The story starts out slow(like a ordinary life void of extreme pleasure or pain), then advances fast suddenly filling with action(the beginning of the holocaust) and leaves you guessing, confused, and shorthanded as it wraps up quickly(the aftermath of the holocaust). The end dances with horrible acts felt early on but not seen approaching. It then closes in an abrupt manner leaving far more questions than answers.
    Let me preface my following claim by stating that I mean in no way to state that The holocaust was short lived, especially for those who tasted even a drop of its eternal pain. In the greater view of history, however, the holocaust was something not entirely foreseen, but its approach was felt. It was abrupt in its arrival and departure. It was confusing. It was something beyond any words of awful. At its end people did not know whether to forget its pains or to remember its lessons. I felt this book was trying to convey this, not so much as a literary device, but as a story told by emotions, in concept, philosophy, and the suitcase of art. As I closed its pages I felt of the story the same way I felt the first time I had learned of the Holocaust. What could I take from this? How do I feel? Was this real? How could it have happened? Did no one foresee its dangers? What does one do with this history, this knowledge, this story?
    Life is often not believable, the proverb “truth is stranger than fiction” rings in my mind. Fiction does not have to be believable, but it is sometimes the fiction of art that reveals the most about the fact. Although Beatrice and Virgil may fail as a sound and familiar practice of literature, it excels as a radical approach to covering a dense topic. I will never forget the holocaust, but I can not pretend that I will be able to hold onto every particle of fact I have devoured over the years concerning the topic. I will however remember the feelings I have felt, the pain for humanity, the sorrow, and the hopes of memories and preventing monstrosity. This book did not teach me anything new, but it did re-stir those feelings in my breast, and they will not be forgotten.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      April 6, 2011 - 8:43 am

      Thank you, Jozef, for sharing your experience with the book. I think your direct parallel of the unfolding of the book to the actual course of historical events is an interesting way of looking at it.

      I think my sticking point with the way the book unfolded is that there is too high a chance of losing the average reader with such a meandering, seemingly pointless, almost imperceptible build up to endgame. While that may be more accurately analogous to reality, if Martel’s intention was to present the events in a fictional allegory I believe more consideration should have been given to engaging the reader more actively, else lose them before the real message is ultimately delivered.

      The emotional impact of that message once it does actually unfold, however, is absolutely undeniable, as you so rightly noted.

      Thank you, again, for such a great comment.

    • Lisa

      June 6, 2012 - 6:56 pm

      I totally agree that Martel has used the ‘form follows content’ conventions to achieve a ‘refreshed reader response’ in the most gut-wrenching way. Remember the two animals who keep asking each other ‘how will we talk about this when it is over?’, that is exactly what we are doing right now. It is exactly what Martel would have us do.

      • Elizabeth A. White

        June 7, 2012 - 5:16 pm

        Which, I suppose, is a noble end in itself. Much better than something consumed and disposed of without a second thought.

  • Chelsea

    April 5, 2011 - 7:48 pm

    I will admit I was a bit thrown by this book. I loovveed Life of Pi, I think Martel is very creative and has the vivid imagination of an 8 year old. His pen is like a paint brush. I would suggest reading Life of Pi if you liked Where the Wild Things Are. Beatrice and Virgil was a little dark for me and I agree with you about taking to long to get to the point. Just don’t let this book be a deciding factor.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      April 6, 2011 - 8:33 am

      I do think I will get around to Life of Pi eventually, it just isn’t going to be a ‘must read’ for me at this point.

  • Theo Castle

    March 22, 2011 - 9:20 pm

    I was perhaps caught a little off guard by the ending of Beatrice and Virgil, but I still thought it was an intensely interesting read. Perhaps though, it was because I’m a little bit of a serial hobbyist and enjoyed learning a something about taxidermy.
    Comparatively, after reading ‘Life of Pi’ I was generally just left ‘hhmmm’-ing.

    It’s starting to seem a little bit like Martel is a writer of short stories, who then goes and researches a reasonably unknown subject like zoology or taxidermy(unknown to the average reader atleast), writes about it in painstaking detail and tries to fit the short story around it.

    He’s an odd one, because all that said, I’d happily recommend any of the 3 Yann Martel’s books I’ve read to anyone, ha.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      March 23, 2011 - 11:12 am

      It’s starting to seem a little bit like Martel is a writer of short stories, who then goes and researches a reasonably unknown subject like zoology or taxidermy(unknown to the average reader at least), writes about it in painstaking detail and tries to fit the short story around it.

      That’s a really interesting take, and one that certainly seems to make sense. I’m sure I’ll still get around to reading Life of Pi, just don’t know that it’s going to rocket up the TBR stack. 😉

  • Suko

    March 1, 2011 - 3:12 pm

    I also have mixed feelings about this book, which I’ve just reviewed, and I’m still thinking about it as well. But I do know that I would like to read Life of Pi at some point.

  • Man of la Book

    February 28, 2011 - 4:16 pm

    Good review and I agree, the book was neither here nor there. Here are my thoughts on it, also as part of the blog tour.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      February 28, 2011 - 4:33 pm

      It does appear as though we are far from alone in our ambivalence about this book.

  • Neliza Drew

    February 25, 2011 - 11:23 pm

    Sorry, can’t help you with LIFE OF PI. We read it for book club a few months back, and my overwhelming response was…meh. The first part was interesting, though I started feeling a little sea sick with all the hacked-up raw sea turtle talk. It took forever to figure out who Richard Parker was, and had it not been an “assignment” I’m not sure I’d have bothered since it sat on my shelf gathering dust for years. The end was, “are you kidding me, that’s…um…what?”

    On the other hand, several members of my book club thought it was “Oh my god, awesome” with “so much meaning” “I mean, the depths of the symbolism.”

    Deciding which version of the story was true was probably more fun than the read, so maybe if you can talk some of your friends into reading it with you and debating that, I’d say carve a few hours out for it.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      February 26, 2011 - 12:10 pm

      Thanks for the feedback. Seems like the initial buzz from its release has died down, because recently I’m really not hearing anything that makes me want to run out and get it.

  • Lisa Munley

    February 25, 2011 - 3:17 pm

    Hi Elizabeth. Someone else on the tour totally hated the ending, so it’s interesting to hear that you liked it moreso than the first part of the book. I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you but glad you’re still thinking about it days later. It’s one of those infuriating, polarizing books, it seems. Thank you for your thoughts and for being on the tour!

    • Elizabeth A. White

      February 25, 2011 - 3:28 pm

      I saw that. It is interesting how people can have such polar opposite reactions to the same thing, and feel so strongly about it. I wouldn’t say this book didn’t work for me per se, it was just…different. 😉

  • Erin G

    February 25, 2011 - 11:30 am

    You have exactly summarized my own feelings about this book. It was so unsettling and I was left thinking about it long after I’d read it. Yet something about the book felt off and it was only my inability to put a book down half-read that kept me reading. I can’t give you a good argument for reading The Life of Pi because I didn’t love it, apart from the fun of discussing a book so many have read with other readers.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      February 25, 2011 - 3:30 pm

      Considering how many other things are in my TBR I doubt I’ll be running out to get LIFE OF PI any time soon. Not unless someone steps up and just overwhelms me with their enthusiasm for it.

      Anyone?

      Anyone?

      Bueller?

      • Nel

        April 18, 2011 - 11:02 pm

        I’m not a fanboy, I’m not going to say “Life of Pi was amaaaazing, it was so wonderfully enlightening you just have to read it!”
        However, I do think it is a good book, some would say an important book, but that depends on the person.
        I’ll preface this by saying I like tales of adventure and survival, I was one of those kids who read books about running away and living in the wild, I like The Jungle Book. I am also a serial hobbyist so I enjoy anything informative about obscure trades. So perhaps these characteristics lent Life of Pi a glamour for me more than others.
        Still, I do believe some people miss the point; yes there is a twist at the end (some people would call it a cheap trick), yes “the symbolism” is so “deep”. As Neliza says (ha it’s as if our names demand that we disagree! 🙂 ) it takes a while to “figure out who Richard Parker is”… Figure it out? The book never says one way or the other, instead it asks you to take your pick of the beliefs offered to you. I find it interesting that people argue which meaning is the “true” story… why does it matter? The choice is yours, which would you rather believe?

        I guess that’s as much advocacy for the book I can give you Elizabeth- I would describe Life of Pi as one of those perfectly popular books, it is both a blockbuster and an art house film; it just depends on who is reading it.

        • Elizabeth A. White

          April 19, 2011 - 12:08 pm

          While I do like books that leave things open to interpretation somewhat, only if doing so makes sense in the structure of the book looking back to the beginning. What annoys me is when a book leaves things hanging/open but instead of feeling intentional in order to engage the reader, it comes across more as a cop-out by an author who wrote themselves into a corner and couldn’t really come up with a fitting ending. Thanks for your input, Nel. 🙂

      • Rhoda

        January 16, 2013 - 1:35 pm

        hi Elizabeth. in the event of a major catastrophe, where i was losing all my material possessions, Life of Pi would be one of the books i grab as i dash out of the house. i’ve read it & reread it many times – it’s one of those books i keep going back to – because i think it is just beautiful. there’s nothing humdrum about it. it’s a pity you’ve read so much about it (& doesn’t help that there’s a whole lot more hype now that the movie’s out too), because the book is packed full of sweet surprises and the most gentle, sensitive, sparkling handling of the english language. it’s one of those books that leaves me feeling like my soul has just been scrubbed clean. i would say, don’t hesitate a moment longer, forget the hype, forget what you’ve heard and read, and just read Life of Pi with an open heart.

        i, like many who’ve commented, landed here having just finished Beatrice & Virgil and went trawling to find out about other people’s experiences of it. i also had that latent feeling of dread throughout the book, but i didn’t feel like it was wasted space/pages at all. i wasn’t impatient (like many) to find out what it’s all about (like the editors & the librarian asked, and like Henry himself asked of the taxidermist). i was enjoying the language and the unfolding of the tale. i was hooked from the description of the pear onward. i too felt brutalised by the ending & couldn’t believe how suddenly, & from out-of-the-blue, it all happened. my overall feeling is that it was a beautiful, but disturbing book. and i would happily read anything Yann Martel publishes.

        • Elizabeth A. White

          January 18, 2013 - 5:15 pm

          Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Though I’ve not yet gotten to it, the passionate comments in support of the book have definitely convinced me to put it on my TBR.

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