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The High Mountains of Portugal

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  16,615 ratings  ·  2,735 reviews
In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure.

Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie finds
Hardcover, 332 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Spiegel & Grau
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Cameron It's one of the things I love most about Martel's writing. He can take the quotidian, the mundane, and yes, even the downright boring, and still capti…moreIt's one of the things I love most about Martel's writing. He can take the quotidian, the mundane, and yes, even the downright boring, and still captivate me with his writing. I was dragged along, 1904-Renault-like, through every bump and pothole. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I loved it.(less)
Miguel Falé I think it's a dream
The man is definitely traumatized by having autopsied his wife
He dreams with his wife making sense of the bible, she who was so …more
I think it's a dream
The man is definitely traumatized by having autopsied his wife
He dreams with his wife making sense of the bible, she who was so good to the poor and ends up assassinated as Christ did
The other autopsy may have happened and probably the man is also a widow. The most important thing in his live was the love for his wife. The only item missing inside. And what he missed the most after the tragic killing of their golden boy
The monkey and the bear cub simbolizes his unconditional love for his child.
Only animals are able of unconditional love and the chimpanzee is the closest thing you will ever have to a unconditional human love.

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Average rating 3.39  · 
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 ·  16,615 ratings  ·  2,735 reviews

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Doug H
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: advance-copy

This Book Hurt My Brain But I Liked It

If you’re like me, you enjoyed Life of Pi more for its story than for its mind games with math and metaphysics. You might have appreciated those aspects, but you also probably shrugged your shoulders and set most of them on your brain’s back burner while you kept stirring at that great story in front. And, that worked very well.

If you’re like me, you’ll try to approach this one the same way. You’ll quickly find that you can’t. It’s much more experimental in
Sam Quixote
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Yann Martel’s latest novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, is crap.

It’s split into three sections set at different points of the twentieth century: 1904, 1938, and sometime in the early 1980s. Each section is set in rural Portugal and features a chimp at crucial points of the three stories. Also, I have no idea what the point of this novel is!

So I went back to the blurb and re-read that this is a novel about faith and love and loss. I get the feeling that the reason why this book is described
Angela M
I'm at a loss for how to rate this book so I'm not going to . I just don't understand what it's really about . It's odd from the beginning with a story of a man who walks backwards as the result of his grief over losing his lover, his child and his father. Tomas becomes obsessed with an object he reads about in a priests journal , a cross. A journey reminiscent in a way of Harold Frye, meeting people along the way to their destinations. It's sad and it's about loss and grief but brilliantly humo ...more
It was not even a book. It felt more like a hostage situation, where 3 random stories are kidnapped in the middle of the night, forced to stay together against their will, violently stitched with a rope and a glue and pretend to be hight literature. Yann Martel, please Sir, move to High Mountains of Portugal and never write another book.
Amy McLay Paterson
Feb 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
"Hey Yann, how's the book coming?"
"Dude, it's so good. I have this great idea for a character!"
"Oh yeah, what's he like?"
"Well, his wife is dead!"
"And his son is dead too!"
"Ok...maybe we could dig a little deeper?"
"He...walks backwards everywhere?"
"Oh, and the best part: he's a total technophobe, and he has to drive this crazy car made of elephant parts! Ahahaha, I crack myself up sometimes. Anyway, I was thinking the book could double as a driving instruction manual! I've got pages of jus
LeAnne: GeezerMom
"Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality..."

- Freddie Mercury

No spoilers. To fully appreciate this book, you are going to have to loosen your conventional grip on terra firma. For somebody who cannot abide magical realism, I adored this - and that is really saying something. There are no people floating about with magic cloaks or turning into giant rabbits, but as in Yann Martel's fantastic Life of Pi, you may ask yourself what the symbols and stor
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“In the course of one week – Gaspar died on Monday, Dora on Thursday, his father on Sunday – his heart became undone like a bursting cocoon. Emerging from it came no butterfly but a grey moth that settled on the wall of his soul and stirred no farther”

The High Mountains of Portugal is the fourth novel by award-winning Spanish-born Canadian author, Yann Martel. In late 1904, Tomas Lobo, an assistant curator at Lisbon’s Museum of Ancient Art, sets off to the High Mountains of Portugal in search of
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Magical, surreal, mountains of grief

Yann Martel has done it again. He's mixed the mysterious, spiritual, animal and human together into a powerful literary potion. If you can surrender completely, and let go of reality with its safe boundaries, then you will be touched and expand.

A story is a wedding in which we listeners are the groom watching the bride coming up the aisle. It is together, in an act of imaginary consummation, that the story is born.

This book is told in three parts, all seemingl
Somehow the word “novelist” doesn’t quite capture Yann Martel’s art. If I had to describe what he does, I might say he writes storybooks for adults. They often have talking animals and a kind of magical realism. They can be extraordinarily effective in reflecting us back at ourselves. He questions the ordinary, celebrates the fantastic. “Stories benefit the human mind.” We understand through stories, and each of us interprets a story differently.

Martel’s new novel drops us into a strange and di
Ron Charles
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Pack your bags: Fifteen years after “The Life of Pi,” Yann Martel is taking us on another long journey. Fans of his Man Booker Prize-winning novel will recognize familiar themes from that seafaring phenomenon, but the itinerary is this imaginative new book is entirely fresh.

In fact, “The High Mountains of Portugal” is actually a set of three delicately connected novellas that take place decades apart. With Martel’s signature mixture of humor and pathos, these three stories explore the rugged ter
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book really touched me on so many levels! It's about dealing with grief in various ways. Three stories are interconnected with thought provoking symbolism. While it was difficult to initially see the greatness of this story, it is worth sticking with it. You will continuously be thinking about the ties within each story. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martins Press and to Yann Martel for all that went into this book. ...more
Steven Langdon
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's very rare that I finish a book and then re-read it immediately because it is so intriguing. But that's what I felt compelled to do with this superb new novel from the author of "Life of Pi."

That's not because the story told kept me caught up in unfolding narrative. Nor because one central character was so charismatic and engaging. This book is a tapestry, with a set of separate but interwoven designs -- an abstract painting, its diverse yet connected elements balancing each other and creati
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I listened to most of this book at 2x speed because I just wanted to get through it (last book club read of the year.) Otherwise I wouldn't have read it. Yann Martel writes in fable and allegory but in a way where you spend most of your time with ancient automobiles, cadavers, and chimpanzees and then wonder where your life has gone. I can't say I'd recommend it or that the payoff was worth it, like I kind of get the "message" of the book, but it was agonizing to get to it and I don't think book ...more
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Three stories woven with common themes: Portugal, chimpanzees, grief, death, and a physical journey.


This book was a slow meditation - and looking at the reviews, I can see that many people just couldn't get past the plodding of the first story. Perhaps it was easier with the audiobook format. Following Tomas on his journey was a struggle - but that was the point. The second story with Dr. Eusebio took a fantastical bent, and included probably one of the most interesting philosophical soliloquie
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was my second book by Yann Martel, and I liked it at least as much as I did his Life of PI.
The book consists of three novellas linked by chimpanzees, family lineage, the high mountains of Portugal, and coping with the death of the beloved family members.
The third part, Peter’s tale, with chimpanzee Odo as pet after the death of his beloved wife, was my favorite, and would be a 5-star in its own right. It had the lightheartedness I much enjoyed in Life of PI. The stunning beauty of high mou
Set mostly in Portugal, this tale tells of three main characters, in three different timeframes and settings. They each lost someone they loved dearly, and all of them have to cope with the grief in their respective ways. All the stories have science and religion interweaving the narrative and elements and characters appear and re-appear in the different settings.

In 1904, Tomás goes on a quest to find a religious artifact he is sure will 'turn Christianity upside down'. Starting off slightly com
3 Stars

Yann Martel's The High Mountains of Portugal is what I would deem the epitome of 'hot mess'-dom but nowhere as bad as some Goodreaders have made it out to be. Two of this triptych's parts were beautiful, if a wee bit clumsy (Part One--"Homeless" and Part Three--"Home") while the second of the three ("Homeward") was completely ridiculous and scoff-worthy, with a bizarre, hokey blend of magical realism, Darwinism and over-zealous Christianity. Sometimes it felt Martel was channelling Paulo
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very unusual book to read.
Reminds me a lot of Gabriel Garcia Marquez magical
realism style of writing.
To me it was really fascinating and enjoyable to read.
There are a lot of mixed reviews so a difficult book to
recommend in general.

So,I suppose just give it a try you could love it or not
find it interesting at all.

But for me it was excellent!
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loneliness comes up to him like a sniffing dog. It circles him insistently. He waves it away, but it refuses to leave him alone.

The High Mountains of Portugal is not really a novel, but rather three interconnected stories. The theme in all three the stories are loss, the grieving process and loneliness. I thought the first story was okay, sometimes absurd and funny and sometimes sad, but it never truly grabbed hold of my heart. I really liked the magical realism in the second story, as well as t
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: signed-by-author
Never have I been so immersed in a story. Quite possibly the most thought provoking book I have read. I simply could not put the book down, which explains why it was read in two days.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
In a recent interview author Yann Martell notes that there are no high mountains in Portugal, but that the names of places do not necessarily describe them, but rather tell their story.

In "The High Mountains of Portugal" we find three separate but connected stories of people struggling to overcome their personal "high mountain", that of grief.

The first tells the story of a man who loses three loved ones in less than a week and sets out on a quest to find a relic which will change history, only
Miriam Cihodariu
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: portugal, canada, spain
After reading Life of Pi (and not seeing the movie), I was already pretty open to this author. Also, I have quite the crush on Portugal's history and culture, so when the book came out I knew I had to read it as soon as possible.

By the time I made time for it, my anticipation grew all the more. The best part about it is that the hype I had built around it was worth it in the end. It delivered the same calm and peace I had come to expect from Martel's writing, but with even more beautiful conten
Thomas Paul
Jan 08, 2016 rated it did not like it
I really did not enjoy the book. There was something with potential in there but it just doesn't move. The opening section of the book is about Tomas who has lost his wife, child, and father all in the span of a week. So he decides to punish god by walking backwards. OK, whatever floats your boat I suppose but there really isn't an explanation of how this is punishing anyone except Tomas. Meanwhile Tomas has found a diary of a priest who was living in Africa. Apparently the priest made some kind ...more
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This book leaves me a bit puzzled. I don't really know what to think of it. It consists of three parts which are very loosely connected and could in fact be read as three separate stories. The only two elements they have in common are a small village in the High Mountains of Portugal (which turn out to be not so very high) and a chimpanzee.

The first part - set in 1904 - is about a young man who lost his wife and child and is now walking backwards as a kind of mourning. He finds out about an art
Joy D
This book includes three loosely-related stories with separate time frames: 1904, 1938, and the 1980's. All three stories take place primarily in Portugal and are related to a remote small town. Each of the three main characters is struggling to accept the death of loved ones, and each is climbing a figurative mountain, as there are no high mountains in Portugal.

To me, this book is about the way humans respond to grief. In the first story, the protagonist reacts with anger, turning his back on
Donald Schopflocher
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Strange but very compelling. Brimming with wonderful ideas, it reminds me of Borges, and of "A hundred years of solitude" except that it was more anchored in realist narrative tropes. It is structured as a connected sequence of three stories of which I found the second and third most interesting. Anyone who can make a passage like the following completely intelligible has my full admiration: "Next time you're at home sick with sadness pick up one of her books and imagine you're in a boat. Standi ...more
Roger Brunyate
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Chimpanzee, Rhinoceros, and a Vintage Renault

I have not read Life of Pi , nor seen the movie, so cannot say if Yann Martel's latest is as good as his Man Booker prizewinning novel about a tiger and a boy in a small boat. But I was certainly not disappointed in this one, which offers a charming blend of faith and fable, coupled once more with an unusual bestiary, from odd-looking automobiles to even less common animals. Whatever I felt about the book narratively—it tends to amble rather than a
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a wild carpet ride of a tale spun by Yann. I was hooked and will read more :)
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, 2016, can-con
We are risen apes, not fallen angels.

I was able to get an ARC of The High Mountains of Portugal, so this review comes with two caveats: any passages I quote may not be as they appear in the final version of the book; and as I was consistently delighted/astounded by revelations along the way, it wouldn't be fair for me to spoil anyone else's reading experience by getting into too much detail; I'll try to be careful.

The High Mountains of Portugal is written in three parts, each of them focussi

it’s December 1904 and Tomas is strolling along the streets of Lisbon on his way to his uncle’s house.

he’s walking backwards because he’s pissed at god for killing his son, lover and father all in one week. grief does strange things to people idk.

Tomas is actually going on a trip to the North of Portugal to find some crucifix he read about in a priest’s diary that he stole from work. what a rebel.

his uncle is filthy rich and gives him a car, er, I mean an automobile. no he doesn’t need a
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Yann Martel is the author of Life of Pi, the #1 international bestseller and winner of the 2002 Man Booker (among many other prizes). He is also the award-winning author of The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (winner of the Journey Prize), Self, Beatrice & Virgil, and 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. Born in Spain in 1963, Martel studied philosophy at Trent University, worked at odd jobs—tre ...more

Articles featuring this book

The Life of Pi author returns with The High Mountains of Portugal, a labyrinthine novel that intertwines human stories and spans continents—and...
22 likes · 5 comments
“What his uncle does not understand is that in walking backwards, his back to the world, his back to God, he is not grieving. He is objecting. Because when everything cherished by you in life has been taken away, what else is there to do but object?” 16 likes
“This tiny habitation on wheels, with bit parts of the living room, the washroom, and the fireplace, is a pathetic admission that human life is no more than this: an attempt to feel at home while racing towards oblivion. He” 13 likes
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