Friday, 24 August 2018

The High Mountains Of Portugal by Yann Martel


The High Mountains Of Portugal by Yann Martel
First published in the UK by Canongate in February 2016.

Featured in 5Books1Theme: Road Trip

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Lost in Portugal.
Lost to grief.
With nothing but a chimpanzee. 

A man thrown backwards by heartbreak goes in search of an artefact that could unsettle history. A woman carries her husband to a doctor in a suitcase. A Canadian senator begins a new life, in a new country, in the company of a chimp called Odo. From these stories of journeying, of loss and faith, Yann Martel makes a novel unlike any other: moving, profound and magical.

I didn't realise when I started reading The High Mountains Of Portugal that the book isn't a novel. Instead it is three cleverly linked longish short stories that take place at different times over a period of about eighty years. To be honest, I wasn't at all enamoured of the first story! I struggled to get into the bizarre tale and I had limited sympathy for its beleaguered protagonist. Supposedly griefstruck by the deaths of his serving maid lover and their child, I irritatedly thought that perhaps he should have made the effort for them all to be a family while he had the chance rather than clinging to his family's privilege while he could and then making futile gestures too late to matter. Harsh?

The book and I clicked towards the very end of the first story and I thoroughly enjoyed Martel's wild imaginings and the totally unexpected directions his further two narratives take. This would be a good book for fans of oddness and magical realism. I am sure I didn't identify or correctly interpret half the symbolism, but I understood enough to appreciate the layering of these stories. At one level they could be simply mad fairytales. Step back and glance from a different angle though and Martel's ideas are practically leaping over each other in their rush for attention. At times it's almost overwhelming!


Etsy Find!

Chimpanzee 
bunting garland 
by Katezart Designs in 
Lincoln, England

Click pic to visit Etsy shop


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Yann Martel / Fantasy fiction / Books from Canada

16 comments:

  1. The author seems to like having a human with an animal in his books. I'd prefer to travel with the monkey than the tiger though!

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    1. Absolutely and Odo is such a brilliant character :-)

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  2. That does sound like it would be interesting.

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    1. Oddness abounds, but it was great once I got into the rwad :-)

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  3. yes here here! *raise her hand* I am a fan of oddness and magical realism :) and I hope to travel to Portugal in march for my son's soccer tournament :)

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    1. I did think of you while reading this one!
      And yay for Portugal in March!! It'll be amazing. We're thinking of heading that far this winter, but I'm not sure we'll still be there in Spring

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  4. Sounds interesting, I thought this was a novel too. Short stories may work better though, especially if you enjoyed one and not the other.

    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. It was weird that I was so meh for most of the first story, then it all suddenly clicked!

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  5. Its hit or miss with magical realism books for me. Glad to read your thoughts on this one,

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  6. I've had the surprise of thinking a book is going to be a novel and it turns out to be a short story collection and it shocks me! I don't think I will read this one though because me and magical realism don't get on too well so I am very picky about my reads of that genre.

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  7. Ha, I continually argue with characters, no worries ;)

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