The Back of the Book says:
‘This is the story of a donkey named Beatrice and a monkey named Virgil. It is also the story of an extraordinary journey undertaken by a man named Henry. It begins with a mysterious parcel, and it ends in a place that will make you think again about one of the most significant events of the twentieth century. Once you have finished reading it, it is impossible to forget.’
This book did indeed blow my mind and as promised I have yet to forget this book. A bit of a slow burner from the beginning and around 20 pages in irritation began. Maybe it was Martel’s style of writing (one of the reasons I put Life of Pi down and have yet to pick it up again). The longest description of a flip book was given over quite a few pages and by the end of said description I was no closer to caring about it. So far there has been a lot of description about various things and one that grabbed my attention more than most was Martel’s links to language and music so I made a table with my thoughts at the end.
Yes I made a table!!!
There was various mention of ‘this city’ which by about the fourth time really did irritate me – which city? New York, Paris, London? Now it may seem that I am picking this book apart however there will be a section of praise! Honestly!
Martel goes on to write about how Gertrude Stein who wrote a letter in such a style with certain handwriting – once again do I care?
Now the positive . . . well some of it!
After around page 30 apart from the extensive copying of a Flaubert play the book started to pick up the pace. Martel’s writing using animals as the main characters instead of humans to eradicate any stereotypical thoughts conjured up when written from the human perspective. Before I picked up this book I had heard mixed opinions about it however one thing that continued to be highlighted was the topic of the holocaust.
Using animals to portray thoughts and feelings about the holocaust is a deeply psychological approach as the individual has to think around the text and leaves you wondering if the real story is just about the animals. One line from Life of Pi the movie which I can only guess is in the book is ‘which story do you prefer?’ and something else I can only guess is that most people would prefer to hear the story about the animals as it will play less on their minds.
Nothing until the end of the book really delves into the Taxidermist’s fixation with killing whether it is of animals or humans. As I do not want to spoil the story I will not be mentioning anything else related to the ongoing storyline. All I can say is that people fear what they do not know and this book is a prime example of exactly that.
Games for Gustav is something that you will come across at the end of the book, just be warned that the questions are quite weird and after finishing the main body of the book you will be left speechless. The ending alone is abrupt, shockingly emotional and truly unexpected. Until about three-quarters of the way through the book things seemed quite mixed up and then all of a sudden the action/shock came thick and fast from every angle imaginable.
My overall take on the story of a socially inept taxidermist, copied paragraphs, Games for Gustav, an abrupt and quite shocking ending is somewhat inconsistent with my original beliefs. Although this book shocked me to my absolute core it was a book that I will never forget and actually bought tears to my eyes IN PUBLIC. A book that at the beginning was more than easy to put down however at the end was astonishingly difficult to break away from.
My advice – READ IT and do it soon!