One of the ‘engines of life is faith’. In my opinion, this premise is core to Martel’s writing. Yann Martel consistently negotiates his way through this theme in his books, instead of avoiding it completely, which seems to be the norm in our world today.
This was one of the loveliest books I’ve read in a long time. The shape/form of the book comes to the reader in three chunks; Homeless, Homeward and Home. When I began to read chunk two, I said to myself, “HUH?” (I am not one of those who reads reviews first or who even reads the bits that appear on the book jacket.) With no transition from the seeming novella of chunk one, I didn’t ‘get’ what was happening. I just decided to ‘go with it’. I literally wept at the conclusion of chunk three. Beauty. Place. Home. Companionship. Family. Faith. Adventure and the human wanderings of our hearts. All of these are themes of this book – part fantasy – part so real that it causes the heart to ache.
I fell in love with the landscapes…so clearly written, that in the evening, I wanted to return to the same places.
I was intrigued by the artifacts; Father Ulisses’ diary…the unusual crucifix…the workings of the four cylinder Renault.
The symbols and characters are, for me, very allegorical. I think that my readers might agree that this device is used consistently, also, in The Life of Pi. Martel’s imagery moves so far beyond metaphor. One has to take the time to search their own sense of meaning and life, in order to really appreciate this book. Since this is my practice all of the time, it comes naturally.
For some readers, the detailed description of the ‘magical’ autopsy, may provoke some upsetting feelings or sense of disbelief, but for me, this, in chunk 2, was imperative. It is interesting that, most recently, a lot of my reading is helping me with and through my grief story. This one, truly, was the most helpful to me to this point. Perhaps it is the fact that it appeals to the artistic side of me and taps upon the wounded part of my imagination. Loss does amazing things.
Finally, the relationship between Odo and Peter in the Home section, chunk 3, found me both laughing and crying throughout. I DID feel HOME in this chapter.
I hope that my reading-friends will pick this one up and get back to me on your thoughts. I’m looking forward to hearing Yann Martel at Wordfest this week. I find his writing appeals to me. Of his works, the only disappointment for me was in Self and my comments scratched in the front cover on November 14, 2012, simply say that the book was ‘tragic and in so many ways, for me, insincere. Difficult in places and not humourous as the reviews present.’
A thorough review on “The High Mountains of Portugal”… and I agree, there are no spoilers reading reviews on this book because when you enter into the experience, it is sure to be your own.
It was a beautiful evening at the John Dutton Theater, listening to a great interview with Yann Martel and speaking with him for a short while, about grief.