Reviewed by Krista C.

Yann Martel wowed the world with his huge bestseller, Life of Pi. More than nine years later his next work, Beatrice and Virgil was published with much fanfare. I was looking forward to reading this book because I was a huge fan of Life of Pi. But Beatrice and Virgil did not enthrall me like Life of Pi had. I really didn’t enjoy it at all.

The first twenty pages (about 10 percent of the book), were spent in what I thought was semi-autobiographical whining about how hard it is to follow up a big bestseller with an out-of-the-box publishing concept. This book is about the Holocaust. It’s referenced obliquely and directly.

Henry, the main character, is a well known author much like Martel. He had a smash hit, and then had trouble convincing his publishers to publish his next work which he conceived as a ‘flip book’ about the Holocaust. After having his idea for the book rejected, he picks up his life and moves to a different city like a spoiled toddler might pick up his toys and move to another room when he doesn’t get his way.

In the new city, Henry is approached by a taxidermist who is trying finish writing a play titled, Beatrice and Virgil. He’s been writing the play for years. It is an allegory about the horror of the Holocaust starring a donkey named Beatrice and a howler monkey named Virgil. One of the problems with the character of the taxidermist is that he is a main character that we know little about. He’s a vehicle to present Beatrice and Virgil’s story. More is revealed about him at the end of the book, but by that time I couldn’t care less about what made him tick.

I thought the book used too many weird literary devices. I was annoyed by having to wade through long lists; reading snippets of a play within the book; reading the inclusion of many pages of a story by Flaubert; and being bombarded with not too subtle Holocaust references. Thankfully it was a short read, but that’s about the best thing I can say about it.

Rating: 1/5

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Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Spiegel & Grau. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.