Book Jacket Synopsis: “Henry, a writer, receives an envelope from a reader who says he needs his help. Curious, Henry visits the man. He turns out to be a skilled taxidermist and a struggling writer. As Henry is pulled closer into the world of this cold and calculating man, he becomes increasingly involved in the story of Beatrice and Virgil, a donkey and a howler monkey, and the epic, profoundly moving journey that brought them to Okapi Taxidermy. Along the way, Yann Martel poses enduring questions about art and life, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity. Beatrice and Virgil has the same original and brilliant reach that helped Life of Pi delight readers around the world and established Yann Martel as one of Canada’s most imaginative and surprising writers.”
Review: This book is disturbing. It’s one of those books that slowly sinks its teeth into you and then refuses to let go even days after the novel concludes. I think part of the reason I was so rattled by this book is because it was very, VERY different from what I expected. What I imagined to be a colorful, character-oriented piece was actually a dark and unexpected look into the Holocaust and its aftermath. I see Beatrice and Virgil as a book that is extremely hard to read but needs to be read nonetheless. I could almost see this book being included in high school reading lists, particularly when Holocaust discussions are underway. I don’t believe Martel fully accomplished what he set out to do, but this novel was impossible to put down. Martel’s entire argument, voiced through his narrator, seems to be that while war and other human atrocities are readily fictionalized, the Holocaust stands alone, untouched and untouchable by any form of creative fiction. I have never read anything quite like Beatrice and Virgil. It was uniquely suspenseful because I could tell early on that there was more to the taxidermist than met the eye, but it wasn’t until the final pages of the novel that the reader was able to fully grasp the full scope of the plot. Beatrice and Virgil didn’t quite reach the arguably high level set by Life of Pi, but I think it was an admirable book and gave me a better sense of Yann Martel as both an author and person.