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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone who had a heart !!!
I absolutely loved this book. I have not read life of Pi, but it will be the next book I read. I cant really understand how you could not get this book as some reviewers have said, there really is nothing to get. I was completely immersed by the authors writing style from the first page and found myself drawn in completely. I found the descriptions of the animals, the...
Published on 15 Jun 2011 by Katysparkle

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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly original: but does it work?
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,...
Published on 17 May 2010 by Julia Flyte


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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Highly original: but does it work?, 17 May 2010
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
(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. I don't want to give away too much about the ending - which comes abruptly - other than to say that I found it both heart-breaking and blatantly manipulative.

This is a hard book to rate because it's difficult for me to separate my emotional response from my intellectual one. My emotional response is that I didn't like it - I loved the beginning, but hated it by the end - and yet, I still think it has impact and merit. It's interesting and ironic for me that a book which is about an author who wants to write a new and meaningful take on the Holocaust but fails, ultimately becomes a failed attempt to write the very same thing.

Having said that, many parts of the book are beautifully written and are a pleasure to read. Martel has a gorgeous turn of phrase - for example, there's a lovely description early on about the German language and how it differs from the English language.

Beatrice and Virgil would be a perfect book for bookclubs because it's a quick read, it has so many layers and almost everyone is likely to have a strong response - whether positive or negative - to it. There's plenty I'm sure that I didn't "get" - including why the two central characters share the same name.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trash or genius?, 28 July 2010
By 
Boof (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Beatrice and Virgil (Hardcover)
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.

I have to be honest that if I hadn't loved Life of Pi so much I'm not sure that I would have wanted to carry on reading after the first 50 pages. I say wouldn't have wanted to, but even so I probably would have as I felt strangely compelled to keep reading. The play with the animals was a very obvious metaphor for the holocaust and there were times when I felt like I was being beaten over the head with them. The ending too: I can't decide whether I was being blatantly manipulated or whether Martel has just done a really good job of making me feel what the holocaust was ultimately all about - I was heartbroken at the end, both with the ending of the play and with the Games for Gustav which was a series of "Sophie's choice"-like questions about what would you do in this situation?

I think that this is possibly the first time I have been so unsure how to score a book. It certainly wasn't a book I necessarily enjoyed but was it a good book? I really don't know whether it's complete trash or absolute genius. Having said that, I do still keep thinking about it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone who had a heart !!!, 15 Jun 2011
I absolutely loved this book. I have not read life of Pi, but it will be the next book I read. I cant really understand how you could not get this book as some reviewers have said, there really is nothing to get. I was completely immersed by the authors writing style from the first page and found myself drawn in completely. I found the descriptions of the animals, the pear and the shirt all equally delightful. The juxtaposing of the animals innocent enjoyment of the minutia of things around them with the story of the Holocaust was extremely powerful in bringing out the horror of the laid back violence. In short if you love animals like i do and you are sensitive to the emotions of others you will be deeply touched by this book. I read the final pages with the games for Gustav through a flood of tears. Loved it , loved it , ,loved it .
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mercifully short, 28 July 2010
This review is from: Beatrice and Virgil (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 28 Mar 2012
This review is from: Beatrice and Virgil (Paperback)
Henry is a writer with a couple of successful novels behind him but his latest attempt to wow the literary world is bombing badly. It's a `flip book' - twin books presented upside down from each other with no indication how you should read it. Henry thinks he's being clever - it's half a fictional account of the Holocaust and half a long academic essay on the same subject - but his editor and other worthies gave his manuscript a big thumbs down. In shock Henry persuades his wife to move away with him to an unnamed big city where they get a cat and a dog and he finds a job as a waiter.

Henry's correspondence from his readers follows him to the new city where one day he receives a strange manuscript of a play in which two characters - Beatrice and Virgil - are discussing a pear and how much they'd like to have one. Henry realises the writer is in the same town and goes to meet him. He finds an elderly taxidermist who's looking for help on his manuscript - or is he? It's not really clear what the old man's after. He reveals that Beatrice is a donkey and Virgil is a howler monkey.

Trotting back and forth to visit the strange old man, Henry tries to get his head round the tail of the two unlikely animal friends. It's clearly a fable of some kind but he's not sure what the moral is. The animals live on a shirt, a striped shirt, and are starving. Your plot antennae will be twitching, maybe it's something to do with the Holocaust, just like Henry's manuscript. Or is it?

Normally by the time I'm half way through a book I expect to have a pretty firm idea of what's going on. Half way through Beatrice and Virgil I still wasn't `getting' it. Two thirds of the way and things were little better. By the end I just wondered why I'd bothered. I'm still really not sure what happened and I'm sorry to say that I didn't really care.

I loved Yann Martel's book The Life of Pi but Beatrice and Virgil just had me wondering whether there was something really important that I'd missed or whether there really wasn't any meat on the scrawny bones of these starving animals. Clearly the donkey and the howler monkey are representing something but what? I wondered if the donkey somehow symbolised a connection with Christ riding into Jerusalem in the Palm Sunday story - perhaps, probably not. I didn't recall too many howler monkeys in any religious texts.

Beatrice and Virgil is a slim book at just 197 pages of text, many of which are quick reads because they are presented as dialogue for a play. Slim or not, it felt like hard work. The best part of me was the set of `Games for Gustav' which Henry appends at the end of the book. These are little moral and ethical puzzles which did make me stop and think.

I desperately wanted to like this novel but I didn't. I learned a bit about the work of a taxidermist, picked up some Dante trivia but was left feeling almost as hungry for plot as the poor animals had been for food and affection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another mad Martel, 22 Aug 2011
This review is from: Beatrice and Virgil (Paperback)
Incredibly inventive both in conception and narration. A play within a story within a book within a book. A sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead meets Carlos Ruiz Zafon meets the holocaust. Amazing stuff, if more than a little sad.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 parts enjoyable and 1 part harrowing, 3 May 2011
By 
B. McGarvey (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beatrice and Virgil (Hardcover)
I find some of the negative reviews of this book quite surprising, especially the people who said it is not an easy read. I found that it was a real page turner and I read it in a couple of days. I liked the several different texts / stories within the main story of Beatrice and Virgil, a technique which is often employed by Paul Auster who is one of my favourite writers. I wouldn't say Beatrice and Virgil is as good as Life of Pie but I did actually find B and V easier to read from the onset (I found that it took me a while to get into Pi before it became unputdownable!). When I first saw the animals on the book cover I thought Martel may just be cashing in on the success of Life of Pie, and maybe that was Martel's initial reason for choosing to use animal characters again, however I must say that this book is an altogether different beast (with beast being the operative word). I think Martel achieved what he set out to do in respect of using animal characters instead of humans, in that I think it added to the horror of the ending of Beatrice's and Virgil's story (the play) which I found really quite harrowing and shocking, probably more so than if Martel had used human characters in a more straight-forward holocaust novel (which there are of course so many of already). I felt genuinely upset after reading this book and actually contemplated skipping some scenes because they were so distressing. There was the occasional humorous moment too, especially when Henry's wife makes a "Winnie the Pooh meets the holocaust" comment (it's rare that a book has me in hysterics!). On the whole I found B and V enjoyable and interesting and the type of novel that will no doubt play on my mind for some time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ???, 20 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Good book well written keeps y engaged but I found the story v v disturbing. It will defo make y think
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short but beautiful, 19 Feb 2013
This review is from: Beatrice and Virgil (Paperback)
This is very different to Life of Pi. It's not uplifting, at times very hard going, violent and gruesome. It is enthralling nevertheless. It's has elements of a beautiful friendship and love story between Beatrice and Virgil. The recurring symbolism about expressing the holocaust in a fictional manner is very clever and happens on different levels - yet you don't know about it until it's happened already and you're looking at what Martell's just done in hindsight. Almost pulls it off to perfection. It is very cool, smart and beautifully written. Self aware, self criticising, so brave in what it was trying to achieve. You can't help but be moved by such beautiful text. Very highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After The Life of Pi, 31 Jan 2012
I have been boring my friends about how well worth reading this book is. I recommend you read it when you have plenty of time to get wrapped up in it. 5 minutes here and there would not do it justice.
A must read if you liked The Life of Pi.
It packs a huge emotional punch and manages to pull at the heart-strings on the behalf of, of all things, two stuffed animals. It begins with an author failing to have his novel about the holocaust published.
Yan Martel seems to have set himself the task of encompassing a memoir, play, essay, fable and detailed descriptive writing (and probably other forms of writing I failed to register) into one amazing narrative.
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Beatrice and Virgil
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (Paperback - 7 July 2011)
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