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Great expectations - sadly not met.

  • Mar 20, 2010
As a fan of the author's previous novel, Life of Pi, I ordered this novel with high expectations. Like Life of Pi, Beatrice and Virgil centers around animals and has a strange and a surreal feel to it; in this book, strange is taken to new heights.

The entire book consists of vists between two Henrys who live in the same town: one is the author of a long-ago famous novel and the other is a sullen taxidermist. The latter has written the former and asked for help with a play he has been writing for much of his life, about a donkey and a howler monkey named Beatrice and Virgil. The taxidermist in fact has Beatrice and Virgil in his taxidermy shop, where he not only mounts animals by specific request but sells his other work as well. The shop, as seen through the novelist's eyes, is both fascinating and a little creepy, and during his visits to the shop to help the taxidermist with his play, he becomes quite fond of it and of Beatrice and Virgil.

I found over half the book boring and odd. I was not highly motivated to continue but, since it is only 200 pages long, I pressed on. In the end, I had a sense of wonderment about the story...in part, how a story I almost detested and was bored by for most of the book became quite deep and impactful in its final pages (I was about to say chapters, when I remembered that this book has no chapters).

While it is a much shorter novel than Steig Larrson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it sort of reminds me of how I felt about that book, which I finished not long ago. I grew to almost detest both books in their beginnings but came to be clearly impacted and impressed by their endings.

And so it is that I find myself once again struggling with how to rate this book. Its heavy themes and creative writing may have garnered it 4 stars, had I enjoyed more of the book than just the last 50 pages, so I've decided on 3 stars.

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April 23, 2010
It seems that either the ending made the book to some while others came away hating it because of the end. I am curious. I was not a huge fan of Life of Pi so I am how I will feel about this one.
April 24, 2010
I guess I liked the ending because I was so resentful of the rest of the book being a disappointment compared to Life of Pi, which I WAS a fan of. I think some people are oohing and ahhing because he talked about the Holocaust without really talking about the Holocaust (well, sort of)...like that was so artistic or whatever. To me, the book read more like a writing exercise than something that should have been published as a stand-alone novel.
More Beatrice and Virgil: A Novel reviews
review by . August 17, 2010
The first thing you need to know about "Beatrice and Virgil" is that it is not for everyone. Many will find it to be moving and unforgettable; probably an equal number will be bored with it, even to the point of not finishing it. It is that kind of novel. The second thing you need to know is that it is a difficult novel to review without lessening its potential impact on the reader. Reviewers need to be particularly careful with this one because, the less readers know about the book's details going …
review by . December 10, 2010
   The subtitle of this post should be something like “In which I explain my ambivalence about a book I REALLY wanted to love. But meh.” Published April 13, 2010 by Spiegel & Grau (a RandomHouse imprint) Nine years after Life of Pi (which, by the way, completely rocked my world), Yann Martel brings us Beatrice and Virgil, one of the most anticipated novels of the year. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most disappointing. And believe me, this is not the review I …
Quick Tip by . July 22, 2010
Didn't live up to Martel's first book The Life of Pi.
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Sheri ()
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I have been a customer reviewer on Amazon.com for well over a decade and an Amazon Vine reviewer since the program began. I enjoy writing product reviews that will help customers make a buying decision. … more
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Yann Martel on Animals and the Holocaust in Beatrice and Virgil

I often get asked the question why I use animals in my stories. Life of Pi was set in a zoo and featured a number of animals, and animals once again play a prominent role in my new novel, Beatrice and Virgil. Am I a great animal lover? Well, I suppose I am; nature is indeed beautiful. But the actual reason I like to use animals is because they help me tell my tale. People are cynical about people, but less so about wild animals. A rhinoceros dentist elicits less skepticism, in some ways, than a German dentist. I also use animals in my fiction because people rarely see animals as they truly are, biologically. Rather, they tend to project human traits onto them, seeing nobility in one species, cowardice in another, and so on. This is biological nonsense, of course; every species is and behaves as it needs to in order to survive. But this animal-as-canvas quality is useful for a storyteller. It means that an animal that people feel kindly towards becomes a character that readers feel kindly towards.

Why did I choose to write a novel about the Holocaust? There’s nothing personal to this interest; I’m neither Jewish, nor of German or eastern European extraction. I’m a complete outsider who’s been staring at this monstrous massacre of innocents since I first learned about it as a child living in France. It’s as an artist that I’ve kept coming back to the subject. What can I do ...

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ISBN-10: 1400069262
ISBN-13: 978-1400069262
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

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