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Beatrice and Virgil

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  19,211 ratings  ·  3,045 reviews
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.
Hardcover, 213 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Spiegel & Grau
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Average rating 3.15  · 
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 ·  19,211 ratings  ·  3,045 reviews


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Melinda
Apr 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who enjoy cruelty to animals
Recommended to Melinda by: I loved Life of Pi, so I read it
I literally just finished Yann Martel's new book Beatrice and Virgil (B&V for brevity's sake) about 10 minutes ago. I am shaken with rage as the book is one of the most hateful and ghastly jumble of horrors I have ever finished. At least it is mercifully short. In fact, it is so short, it can hardly be called more than just a long short story. The main story clocks in under 200 pages, there is tons of white space and the last 8 pages are "games" that feel lifted from works about the ...more
Rita
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to review this book. I loved the first part so much, the simplicity and innocence of it. It was so seemingly transparent and human and honest. Then it turned... it didn't become something else, it revealed what it had been all along.

I've read reviews with people saying they felt manipulated, conned, tricked. They are expressing anger over the book and the way it approached the subject and who it was approached by (Who is HE to be writing so offensively about the Holocaust?).

The
...more
Trish
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My first reaction was a howl, a braying if you will, into the vastness. Martel does not allow us to look away. He puts his everyman in charge of his own story, and it is not a pretty sight. Echoing great voices in literature through the centuries, Martel chooses elements from many to create a symbolically dense, but figuratively simple narrative in which a taxidermist lovingly recreates the beauty once inherent in animals now long dead. Killed...nay, massacred, defaced, defiled, tortured, and ...more
Paul
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: hated-it
I disliked Life of Pi, but I thought, well let's give this one a try; it can't be worse. To be fair, it probably wasn't, but it was no better.
I think most available literary devices were used and you can have great fun spotting the various references to other works; many are blindingly obvious, others less so.
In brief, the two main protagonists are both called Henry; one is an author with writer's block and the other an aging taxidermist, usually refered to as the taxidermist. The taxidermist
...more
Mark
Jul 12, 2010 rated it did not like it
I think this book now holds the dubious honor of the worst book I have ever finished. It's derivative, dull & pretentious. The story within the story-a play featuring Beatrice and Virgil, a monkey and donkey walking across a striped shirt-is a cheap ripoff of Waiting for Godot. There are other plot points involving the narrator Henry's pets that seem to come from nowhere and lead nowhere. Finally, the book ends with a series of philosophical questions that strive to be profound, but remind ...more
Robin
Apr 19, 2010 rated it did not like it
What's wrong with it? All the literary devices are stale (the play
within a novel, the big chunks copied out of a story by Flaubert that
is equally uninterestingly presented, the post-modernist writer
writing about a writer who is himself, the tedious Holocaust
allegorical back story is not even mildly interesting or mysterious,
the talking animals, the waiting for godot thing [it's been done, we
hear:]...yuck.) None of the characters are interesting. There is no
plot, really, which is OK (that can be
...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2010
You know those people who get put off by a book sheerly because of how popular it is and get it in their head that it sounds boring (the blurb gave it a self-help-fiction-ish tinge* and I loathe self-help) and is bound to be mainstream 'cause so many people are reading it? Yeah I'm one of those. I saw people everywhere reading Life of Pi for a couple of years before I caved and read it - and, I have to use a cliché here, I was "blown away" by how fantastic it was. If you haven't read it, I hope ...more
Barbara Figlewicz
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe this story only got 3 stars in the cumulative rating. I know I love Yann Martel, and I personally relate to this book, but I thought it was written brilliantly - and I mean BRILLIANTLY!!!

It's a very tough book to read. I felt like I had experienced something close to the pain of the Holocaust when I finished it. It tore up my insides and made me bleed. I still can't think of it without feeling angst and sorrow in my heart.

It's confusing, but in a good way. I think readers SHOULD
...more
Dianah
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wow - 9 years was certainly worth the wait!

Henry L'Hote is a wildly successful novelist who is thwarted in his desire to publish his next novel. While taking a break from writing, he receives a mysterious package from a fan who sends part of a story, part of a play and a note asking for his help. What follows could only happen in a Yann Martel novel. He makes the surreal and impossible seems normal and routine.

After much contemplation, Henry goes to meet the fan and is perplexed by the strange
...more
Stephanie
Mar 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book snuck up on me.

I adore Life of Pi and was prepared for something along those lines, and while the writing style and voice are just alike, this book is totally different. I was not sure what this book was while I was reading it... it is discordant and has some concepts in it that dont seem to fit with others, there isnt an easy flow to the story and I can see why some people would be put off by it.

What I will say about this book is that it is like a good poem, and I think that is the
...more
Glenn Sumi
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
What are the ethical and moral quandaries of depicting the Holocaust with anything but straight facts? Thats at the heart of Yann Martels Beatrice & Virgil, his disappointing follow-up to his prize-winning, bestselling Life Of Pi.

Henry is a Martel-like figure whos temporarily given up writing in despair after his follow-up to his prize-winning, bestselling novel is misunderstood and rejected by publishers.

Living off the royalties of that earlier book with his pregnant wife, Sarah, he moves
...more
Marc
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
To be honest: I do not know what to think about this book, I have very conflicting feelings about it. On the one hand it contains beautiful passages: especially the dialogues between Beatrice and Virgil are sometimes unparalleled, and even more so when they appear to be metaphorical and even concealing and therapeutic; the final with the 13 games is also poignant, especially because of the throat-grabbing pertinence with which the Holocaust is made concrete.

But then there is the construction of
...more
Noemi
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: europe, white-author
I really liked parts of this book - the play within the story was pretty interesting. However, the book as a whole seemed to be one long explanation for why Martel hasn't published anything since Life of Pi, and frankly, I don't care why he hasn't written since then. I don't think that authors "owe" us anything just because they write one really good book - if that's all they write, that's fine, it's awesome that they gave us that much.

Martel seems to be both trying to excuse not having
...more
marymurtz
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Oh.
My.
God.

I finished this book in less than a day - I could not stop reading it. Yann Martel is one of the most brilliant writers and ever since I read (and was haunted by) Life of Pi, I've been looking forward to reading his next novel.

A Booklist reviewer called this book "a fable-type story with iceberg-deep dimensions reaching far below the surface of its general premise."

A young author named Henry L'Hote wrote a hugely successful book, but his second novel, eagerly awaited, is pitched to
...more
Tawny
Aug 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was sorry to read the Publishers Weekly review of this novel. I couldnt disagree more with the reviewers take on this book.

The Life of Pi is one of my all-time favorite novels, so when Yann Martel published his latest novel, I was hoping for more of the same: a novel that would touch my heart and haunt my consciousness. So I ran right out and spent the big bucks for the hard-bound copy. Beatrice and Virgil did more than touch my heart; it tore it out and handed it to me on a plate. And I mean
...more
Andi
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I am a child of postmodern literature. In college, my postmodern lit class with Samuel Smith was my favorite lit course because it gave me the framework to talk about all the things I love metanarrative, self-referentiality, deconstruction. Yann Martels new book Beatrice and Virgil contains all these things a play within a novel, the commentary on writing that applies to the book itself, a complexity of story lines that can, ultimately, be broken down into one central theme the value of ...more
Lauren Mckinney
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My eleven-year-old son read this book, because he loved Life of Pi better than anything else he ever read. (Me? I felt completely betrayed by Life of Pi's ending.) He kept saying to me, "You need to read this and tell me what you think."

Wow. This is a powerful tiny novella, rich in symbolism and packing a huge emotional wallop. Although I'm normally the first person to be turned off by postmodern self-referentiality, it didn't bother me here. Martel's narrator is transparently a stand-in for
...more
Marc-Antoine
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very difficult read in the end, but one that will help me be a better person... I didn't know where this story was going, but once it was revealed to me it opened my eyes to horrors that I will probably never fully understand. I can't say that I enjoyed this story, but in some ways I felt it. Ultimately it brought me to tears.
Steven Godin
Dec 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, canada
Terrible. Abandoned it about a third of the way in.
Shanil
Jul 21, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alayne Bushey
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
What is Beatrice And Virgil about?

The question of about-ness is asked more than once in Yann Martels latest novel. In reference to our main character Henry, What is this book about? is asked of his latest novel regarding the Holocaust. When Henrys publishers and editors dont get his work, he gives up writing for a time, moves to a big city with his wife, adopts a dog and cat, gets his wife pregnant, and meets another Henry; a taxidermist writing a play. In this play, the taxidermist has written
...more
Kara Babcock
The words dull and lazy come to mind.

I dont think Beatrice & Virgil was on my to-read list for any reason other than its author. Yes, I have read Life of Pi, and I suppose it was all right and I liked it well-enough at the time, though Im thinking that if I do ever go back and re-read it Im going to feel somewhat meh about it. Yann Martel is a paradigm example of a CanLit author who is impressive to the impressionable type of young mind I had back in my teens and early twenties, but as I get
...more
Kathy Rainey
May 02, 2010 rated it did not like it
Complete opposite of his first book The Life of Pi which was intriguing, fascinating, different and positive. While this story is also written through symbolism with the intent to make you analyze and interpret, the net result leaves you feeling used. Having said that it is extremely well written. The story within a story within a story is intriguing. All of it has serious potential but ultimately very dissatisfying. Spoiler alert: The story begins with an author's story getting rejected because ...more
Fionnuala
Talking about the Holocaust
This book has had some negative reviews but as far as I'm concerned it does what it set out to do, i.e. find a new way to talk about the horrors of the holocaust although I might have preferred if it had done that in a more coherent way. The other quibble I had was with the taxidermist. Why wasn't he redeemed?
Robert
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is inevitable to compare Beatrice and Virgil to Yann Martels previous Booker Prize winning novel, Life of Pi. I felt that this book was a reaction to it. Yet, there are also the same elements : animals feature, theres a moralistic element, theres a meta quality to the plot and its open to a dozen interpretations.

The plot begins with an author who is trying to write a follow up novel to his previous, successful book. So far the manuscript has been rejected, both due to the writing and subject
...more
Gary Guinn
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Novels about writers and writing have become a cliche. Why don't we all agree to allow just one more in the genre--the title, Writer's Angst!. The entire text--"It's hard, baby. Oh, it's hard." It has everything. Brevity, drama, plenty of double entendre. Anyway, just a thought.

When Yan Martel's short 2010 novel Beatrice and Virgil opened with the line "Henry's second novel, written, like his first, under a pen name, had done well," I almost closed the book and put it in the recycle bag. But
...more
Joy Stephenson
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I just can't decide what to make of this book. On the one hand I found it immensely readable until about 3/4 of the way through - it held my attention and I was intrigued. However the extremely vivid descriptions of torture in the last part made me feel physically sick - and more to the point didn't seem to actually develop the story or conclude it in any meaningful way. I was left wondering what the point of the book was (I know perhaps this WAS the 'point' as at the beginning and part way ...more
Cameron
Oct 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Let me preface by saying that I liked The Life of Pi. I loved it, in fact. It is a fantastic novel that I would enjoy reading again and again.

When I got Yann Martel's later novel, Beatrice and Virgil, I wasn't expecting something like the Life of Pi.But, in a way, that is exactly what I got. Only it was a confused, convoluted, and atrocious version of the book that I had loved so much.

The premise of this book, where an author is convinced to help an elderly taxidermist with his allegorical
...more
Sheena
I love Yann Martel's stories. He has a brilliant way of twisting the conventional storytelling method while making the reader think about what fiction/truth/reality mean to the individual.
Beatrice & Vergil is a story about the Holocaust which is told through a number if different perspectives: there is Henry, who narrates the story and is a very successful author who is feeling pressure to write an equally successful second novel (slightly autobiographical?); there is the taxidermist, whom
...more
Neha
To my mind, faith is like being in the sun. The shadow is doubt. And it goes wherever you go as long as you stay in the sun.

We overvalue words, they are just refined grunts.

Words are cold, muddy toads trying to understand spirits dancing in a field.

I always felt that words are so strong that they can shatter the silence and scream the truth hoarse... but this book just makes me believe that nothing is more powerful than silence... it can be killing, tormenting, poignant, threatening,
...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Boston Bookworms: So, a monkey and a donkey. What's up with that? 1 14 Jan 13, 2016 12:33PM  
Amnesty Internati...: September 2015 - Beatrice & Virgil by Yann Martel 7 32 Nov 20, 2015 07:38PM  
The taxidermist 6 198 Dec 20, 2013 01:19AM  
Martel and the Animals 1 43 Jul 02, 2012 09:25AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Beatrice and Virgil 1 4 Jun 25, 2012 12:05PM  

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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 ...more

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