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(BEATRICE AND VIRGIL BY Martel, Yann(Author))Beatrice and Virgil[Hardcover]Spiegel & Grau(Publisher) [Unknown Binding]

Yann Martel
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (13 April 2010)
  • ASIN: B004QPXK70
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963. After studying philosophy at university, he worked at odd jobs and travelled before turning to writing at the age of twenty-six. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, which was translated into thirty-eight languages and spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. His collection of short stories, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, and his first novel, Self, both received critical acclaim. Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly original: but does it work? 17 May 2010
By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER
Like Yann Martel himself, Henry is a Canadian author whose second book - which features wild animals - has become both a critical success and a wildly popular bestseller. He then struggles for five years with his next book, which is about the ways that the Holocaust is represented in literature. He thinks he has found a fresh approach to tell the story, but his publisher, editor and agent unanimously reject it. Henry and his wife move away and he takes a break from writing. He starts working in a café, takes up the clarinet and joins an amateur theatrical group. One day he receives a package containing a short story by Flaubert (in which many animals are killed) together with an extract from a original play featuring a discussion between two characters: Beatrice and Virgil. An accompanying note reads: "I need your help". This prompts him to track down the author, an elderly taxidermist (also named Henry) who lives in the same city. Taxidermist Henry has been working on his play for 40 years, but isn't satisfied with it. At this point the plot slows down, and the play becomes the focus of the story.

So Beatrice and Virgil is a strange combination of what seems to be a highly autobiographical memoir with a not-very-compelling mystery, that centres on a play about a donkey and a howler monkey living on a striped shirt - which is itself a fairly laboured and obvious metaphor for something else. And that's the biggest issue for me. When I started reading the book I felt that it was stimulating, riddled with clues and associations, that it was operating on so many levels. But as I read on, I increasingly felt that I was being bludgeoned with the same heavy-handed metaphors over and over.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trash or genius? 28 July 2010
I barely know where to start with this book. I actually finished it over a week ago but wanted to wait a while to collect my thoughts about it and see if they are any clearer after some consideration. They aren't: I am just as confused.

I was so desperate to get my mitts on this book: Life of Pi is one of my all-time favourites and I have developed a huge crush on tigers since reading the book. When I saw the cover and the blurb for Beatrice and Virgil I was practically cartwheeling round the room in anticipation of my my brand new crush on donkeys and howler monkeys. It's by Yann Martel. It's got animals in it. What's not to love?

I will attempt to describe the plot now: There is an author called Henry who has had two really successful books out and he has just written a third which gets panned by his publishers. In the first 20 pages of this book I learned more about flip books than I ever realised I cared (and am assured that I still don't). Henry throws his toys out of the pram and moves to another (unamed) city to live off his previous royalties and do things like join an orchestra and a drama group without writing another thing. One day he ets a strange letter from a man also called Henry. The letter contains a chapter of a play that Henry #2 has written and asks Henry #1 for help. Coincidentally, Henry #2 lives in the same city where Henry #1 has just moved to so Henry #1 decides to pay him a visit and finds that Henry #2 lives and works as a taxidermist. The rest of the book flits between the play that Henry #2 has written which is about a donkey called Beatrice and a howler monkey called Virgil who live on a striped shirt, and the two Henry's meeting to discuss the play.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mercifully short 28 July 2010
Free copies of this book has been sent out by the publisher to many book clubs, so my book club leader told us. The response from the 8 of us was resoundingly negative. You can easily substitute Henry, the main character who, after a first award winning novel, fails to come up to grade with his second book. His publishers scoff at his first attempt and he moves away to 'find himself' or some such thing. The secondary character (also called Henry?) quotes heavily from another book (now out of copyright) in his 'play' about Beatrice and Virgil. The ending gave us more questions than answers as it rips you away from the story that is only just starting to develop and off on a tangent.

The book, thankfully, is short. My favourite books are the ones that make me stay up in the early hours because i can't drag myself away from the pages. This was not that sort of book. Let's hope that putting a sticker on the front refering to the Life of Pi, will lead people to read it, as the content won't. We also noted that the back cover which details all the fabulous things reviewers have said sneakily refers, not to this story, but to Pi.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Far Cry from Life of Pi 15 Mar 2013
By S
I finished Life of Pi in one sitting, and have raved about it ever since; countless persons have read the book and seen the movie because of my recommendations. It is one of my all-time favourites, and I understood why Martel didn't follow it up with another novel - how do you top something as phenomenal as Life of Pi?

Well, Martel has now followed it up with another novel, and answered the question: You don't.

I got my hands on this book in eager desperation, but felt no urge to finish it in one sitting. It just didn't pull me. While it seems part autobiographical in some places (a writer struggling to write after a bestseller about wild animals, and then choosing to write about the Holocaust), it doesn't have any 'oomph' in it. He has tried to approach the subject matter from a different angle but in the end, all he's done is replaced humans with a monkey and a donkey. There is no mystery or surprise in this book, from first page to last you know what it is about, and he never lets you forget it. There are strange unexplained bits like why the two main characters share the same name - why indeed? - and how was the taxidermist expecting Henry to help him, given that he didn't actually know that Henry was living in the same city?

I enjoyed parts of the book, but funnily enough, those were the parts that had nothing to do with the central theme - the final details about his pets for example.

No doubt Martel is an eloquent writer - there are some beautiful and very original lines in this book, e.g. "Life and death live and die in exactly the same spot, the body. It is from there that both babies and cancers are born. To ignore death, then, is to ignore life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A brave attempt to expand the boundaries of the novel
This book has similarities to the Canadian author’s 2002 Booker Prize-winning ‘Life of Pi’. 5* to Martel for pushing the boundaries of the novel, or – in this case – the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dr R
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I couldn't put the book down and read it in a single sitting - The questions at the end are very thought provoking , heartbreaking and some we should be grateful we will never have... Read more
Published 7 months ago by JANET KELLY
1.0 out of 5 stars equates jews to animals
tries to be clever but fails miserably by perpetuating old myths an to add insult to injury doesn't understand Beckett either!
Published 7 months ago by Dartmoor Digger
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like Pi
I was recommended to this book and as I liked 'Life of Pi' I decided to give it a go. Wow what a book! So thought provoking. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Marion McDonald
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit intellectual
Not the type of book I would normally read, but it was quite intriguing at times and had an unexpected twist at the end.
Published 12 months ago by Mrs A R Eglington
5.0 out of 5 stars Beatrice and Virgil
An amazing, thought provoking and highly original novel from Yann Martel. A concise and effective work which engages the reader from the start. I could not put it down.
Published 13 months ago by sueve
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but my head hurts
Very unusual approach to bringing to 'life' a fragment of the holocaust. If you want your head filled with just a part of the enormity of mankind's potential for inhumanity and... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Pepys
5.0 out of 5 stars ???
Good book well written keeps y engaged but I found the story v v disturbing. It will defo make y think
Published 16 months ago by Happy customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to read
I found this book very difficult to read, although I did persevere until the end, which is a good job because it's not until the end that it all makes sense. Read more
Published 16 months ago by scaddy
4.0 out of 5 stars not for the faint hearted
this novel hard to get to grips with, but well worth it when you do.. Kind of "Waiting for Godot" dialogue, and great for would be philosophy students. Read more
Published 17 months ago by alijohn40
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