Synopses & Reviews
Fate takes many forms...
When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey — named Beatrice and Virgil — and the epic journey they undertake together.
With all the spirit and originality that made Life of Pi so beloved, this brilliant new novel takes the reader on a haunting odyssey. On the way Martel asks profound questions about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity.
"Megaselling Life of Pi author Martel addresses, in this clunky metanarrative, the violent legacy of the 20th century with an alter ego: Henry L'Hte, an author with a very Martel-like CV who, after a massively successful first novel, gives up writing. Henry and his wife, Sarah, move to a big city ('Perhaps it was New York. Perhaps it was Paris. Perhaps it was Berlin'), where Henry finds satisfying work in a chocolatera and acting in an amateur theater troupe. All is well until he receives a package containing a short story by Flaubert and an excerpt from an unknown play. His curiosity about the sender leads him to a taxidermist named Henry who insists that Henry-the-author help him write a play about a monkey and a donkey. Henry-the-author is at first intrigued by sweet Beatrice, the donkey, and Virgil, her monkey companion, but the animals' increasing peril draws Henry into the taxidermist's brutally absurd world. Martel's aims are ambitious, but the prose is amateur and the characters thin, the coy self-referentiality grates, and the fable at the center of the novel is unbearably self-conscious. When Martel (rather energetically) tries to tug our heartstrings, we're likely to feel more manipulated than moved." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] fable-type story with iceberg-deep dimensions reaching far below the surface of its general premise....Ultimately, Henry finds redemption in terms of his fiction writing but not before facing a leviathan-size example of the human capacity for inflicting cruelty, assuaging guilt, and engaging in creative deception." Booklist (starred review)
"This novel just might be a masterpiece about the Holocaust....[S]omehow Martel brilliantly guides the reader from the too-sunny beginning into the terrifying darkness of the old man's shop and Europe's past. Everything comes into focus by the end, leaving the reader startled, astonished and moved." USA Today
"Readers familiar with Margaret Atwood, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields should learn to make room on the map of contemporary Canadian fiction for the formidable Yann Martel." Chicago Tribune
"Be assured that with this short, crisply written, many-layered book, Martel has once again demonstrated that nothing tells the truth like fiction." Cleveland Plain Dealer
From the award-winning, bestselling author of Life of Pi comes a mesmerizing and brilliant exploration of the limitations of language in understanding and describing the horrors of the Holocaust.
About the Author
The award-winning author of four previous books, the most recent of which is What Is Stephen Harper Reading?
, Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963. He studied philosophy at Trent University, worked at odd jobs — tree planter, dishwasher, security guard — and travelled widely before turning to writing. He was awarded the Journey Prize for the title story in "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios." His second novel, Life of Pi
, won the 2002 Man Booker, among other prizes.
Yann Martel lives in Saskatoon with the writer Alice Kuipers and their son.