Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review: beatrice & virgil

I read Yann Martel's celebrated Life of Pi years ago, when it first came out, which would have made me 19. I definitely did not "get" the books-especially when I heard that the animals were supposed to be people. What kind of craziness is this I thought. I wasn't (well I'm still not) the most discerning reader around. A few weeks ago I listened to a podcast where Martel was interviewed and he discussed how readers are open to interpret the ending in one of two ways-either that the main character Pi was in fact on a raft with animals, or that these are people. Martel intended to leave that up tot he reader. OK, that's great, I can see how that could work, and maybe if I read Life of Pi at this stage in my life I would "get it".....maybe not.

 These were my feelings as I picked up beatrice & virgil, Martel's newest book. I actually hadn't planned on reading it, but it was available on the "new" shelf at the library. Again, animals play an integral part in this novel, and again, I didn't get it. Well I shouldn't say I didn't get it, I think I got it, but I didn't really enjoy it. I think this is likely a great novel, but just not for me. I guess maybe it took some effort not to just take beatrice & virgil at face value, but to look deeper into it. That's I do think I got it, but I don't know, it just didn't resonate with me. As such I don't care to go into greater detail, and I think wikipedia sums it up quite well: "an allegorical tale about representations of the Holocaust. It tells the story of Henry, a novelist, who receives the manuscript of a play in a letter from a reader. Intrigued, Henry traces the letter to a taxidermist, who introduces him to the play's protagonists, two stuffed animals—Beatrice, a donkey, and Virgil, a monkey".  One last thing-there are a number of "games" at the end of the book that are alluded to earlier in the novel that while potentially thought provoking are just downright disturbing.  Not the best thing to read just before falling asleep!

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