Shar's Reviews > Beatrice and Virgil

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
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's review
Apr 20, 10

Read on April 19, 2010

Like many of my friends, I picked up Life of Pi (Martel's previous novel, a Booker Prize winner) because of its cover. I was intrigued by its premise and I ended up taking it home with me. It was what I was hoping for: a completely unique and utterly convincing take on a deceptively simple story of human survival. I was impressed by the book, moved by its intensity, and desperate to discuss it with others. Because there was something I didn't quite "get" about the novel, something I didn't like that eluded my grasp and that left me with an uneasy question mark on the reading experience completely separate from the one Martel intended.

Beatrice and Virgil was a concentrated dose of that uneasiness. There are parts of the novel that soar, reading like the very best parts of Life of Pi, or like "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios," a long short story of Martel's that I loved. But I ultimately finished the book (just a few minutes ago, with NBA playoffs on the TV), put it down, and said "What?"

The protagonist in the novel, a novelist himself, argues that the Holocaust is often portrayed in fiction but almost never experimented with. If there are Holocaust sci-fi novels, or comedic romps, or chick lit stories, they are few in number and they are overshadowed by the library of books grounded inexorably in the facts of the historical tragedy. Martel, like his protagonist, wrote a Holocaust book that in unlike any that has come before it. But while some of the experiment works incredibly well, I don't think this book is as good as it needed to be for how ambitious the project was.

3/5 okapis for an intriguing effort
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Reading Progress

04/19/2010 page 157

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