This is not one of those rare instances where I can’t think of what to say about a book. That actually happens quite frequently and when it does, I usually don’t bother reviewing it. This one completely baffled me folks. I honestly don’t know what to say about it. I loved the first 50, no, maybe even 150 pages, no, it was the first 194 pages. The last 30 gave me the worst case of Reader’s Whiplash I’ve ever had. It was very what-the-heck just happened? I was very, very, very lost.
You see, there are these two Henrys, both of whom are writers, one of novels and one of a play, and I got that. The one who is writing the novel has a raging case of writers block because all his people (publishers, etc) didn’t GET IT. Which I totally understood. And the Henry of the playwriting (who is also an Extreme Taxidermist) asked the novelist Henry to help him with his play, which is about a Donkey and a Howler Monkey and the Holocaust and I’m reasonably sure I even got THAT! But then something Extremely Out of Left Field happens and whoa. Just whoa!
My neck still hurts.
Okay, so, I figure I’m not the best one to ask about this book. I’m going to direct you to some people who I think maybe Got It a little bit better than I did. Firstly, I think you should go to Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog because her review comes closest to what I think about the book. She nails it folks. She helped me understand what Martel was trying to say and where it went all wrong. She made me realize that maybe it wasn’t just me. Which is quite a feat, let me tell you. When she said:
Then, there is a twist that comes like a punch in the gut and recasts everything that precedes it. (Sort of like that twist at the end of Life of Pi, but with the opposite effect.)
That was what really made me feel better. The twist punched her in the gut where it gave me whiplash! Really, if you want to know anything about this book, Read Her Review.
Then there is Ron Charles’s review in the Washington Post. I’ll warn you now, I’d wait to read this one until after you’ve read the book, if you still want to. He kinda rips it apart.
For a contrast opinion, USA Today calls the book “dark but divine.” They also think “This novel just might be a masterpiece about the Holocaust.”
Suey at It’s All About Books is much kinder in her review. She says about the shocking twist:
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!
She also says “It was a unique reading experience!” Which I completely agree with actually. It is unique!
There are tons of other book blogger reviews going up, if you want to do more research. While I suspect I’m still just not getting it, I did find it immensely readable, to be so difficult (for me!) to understand. Maybe you’ll have a better time of it. I do think it would make for some great discussions. Maybe read it with your book club? It does have 4 1/2 stars on Amazon. But really, my bottom line? Stick to Life of Pi.
Beatrice and Virgil
Author: Yann Martel
Category: Canadian Literature
Published by: Spiegel & Grau
On Sale: April 13, 2010
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