The high mountains of Portugal A novel

Yann Martel

Book - 2016

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 himself at the center of a mystery of his own and drawn into the consequences of Tomás's quest. Fifty years o...n, a Canadian senator takes refuge in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife. But he arrives with an unusual companion: a chimpanzee. And there the century-old quest will come to an unexpected conclusion.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Spiegel & Grau [2016]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
332 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780812997170
0812997174
Main Author
Yann Martel (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

"Not even the gods can defend a man, not even one they love, that day when fate takes hold and lays him out at last." These memorable lines from the Odyssey ring entirely true over the course of the three disparate sections that bind loosely together to form Martel's (Beatrice and Virgil, 2011) latest novel, which emphasizes the cruel hand of destiny in shaping our unpredictable lives. Tomás, Maria Dores Passos Castros, and Peter Tovy might be separated by time and circumstance, but they are connected by their shared family history, which can be traced to the high mountains of Portugal. Each also suffers a devastating loss that scars his or her psyche seemingly irreparably. Martel's familiar trope of our interconnectedness with the animal world (realized indelibly in The Life of Pi, 2002)—a chimpanzee is a recurring element through the three narratives—seems a bit discombobulated here, and the plot's many improbable coincidences strain credulity. Nevertheless, this allegorical tale drives home the ephemeral nature of beauty and joy and the thin line we all walk between normalcy and madness, especially in the wake of loss. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Martel is a magnet for fiction lovers, who will be curious about his new novel. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Martel's Life of Pi was an international best seller, a Man Booker Prize winner, and the basis for an Academy Award-winning film, while the subsequent Beatrice and Virgil (a quirky risk taker) was a New York Times best seller. This new novel blends quest, ghost story, and sharp realism to explore questions of faith as it moves from the 17th century to the early and mid-20th century to today. [Page 54]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Like Martel's celebrated Life of Pi, this new book investigates a world of tragedy linked with animals, but the context is completely different. In three distinct yet connected parts, each centered on the high plains in northern Portugal, the narrative describes an innovative arc of endings and beginnings. The first section features archivist Tomás, who, in reaction to the death of his family, has taken to walking backwards and is obsessed with finding an enigmatic crucifix. The second section examines Portuguese pathologist Eusebio Lozaro, seemingly unhinged after a violent and unexplained personal loss, and his performance of a highly improbable autopsy. The third part brings a grieving Canadian senator back to his original family home in Portugal with an unlikely companion who offers a different perspective on living. VERDICT The intriguing setting and intricacy of the storytelling create an engrossing reading experience, with disparate elements combined into a coherent whole. As a theme, the interchangeability of humans and animals resounds throughout, suggesting a form of anthropomorphic magical realism reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez but allowing interpretations to remain open. An enjoyable journey that brings meaning and discovery. [See Prepub Alert, 8/24/15.]—Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA [Page 71]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

An Iberian rhinoceros, two chimpanzees, three dead wives, and two dead toddlers all figure in this highly imaginative novel. Martel's narrative wizardry connects three novellas set seven decades apart in the eponymous region of Portugal. In the first section, titled "Homeless" and set in 1904, Tomás Lobo, a young resident of Lisbon whose wife and son have died, begins to walk backward "to face the uncertainty of the future," since everything he cherished in life has been taken away. Though he has lost his religious faith, he vows to find a "strange and marvelous" crucifix that resembles a chimpanzee in a church in the tiny village of Tuizelo. His quest goes awry in highly comic ways: an episode that finds him naked in a meadow rubbing lice powder over his body rivals the hilarious meerkat scene in Martel's Life of Pi. Characters from Tuizelo figure in the second section, "Homeward," set in 1938. A pathologist receives a visit from his dead wife and later discovers a dead chimpanzee curled in the body of a man on whom he does an autopsy. Martel handles this improbable scene with convincing magical realism. "Home," the third section, is set in 1981 Canada, where a politician mourning his dead wife impulsively buys a chimpanzee called Odo and travels to Tuizelo, where he was born. His grief is assuaged and his faith is restored by the ancient crucifix and the simple pleasures of country life. Martel is in a class by himself in acknowledging the tragic vicissitudes of life while celebrating wildly ridiculous contretemps that bring levity to the mystery of existence. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An allegorical novel in three parts is set in the fictional High Mountains of 17th-century Portugal and beyond, where characters explore questions of loss and faith while on a quest, while tackling ghosts and in the contemporary world. By the award-winning author of Life of Pi.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An allegorical novel in three parts is set in the fictional High Mountains of seventeenth-century Portugal and beyond, where characters explore questions of loss and faith while on a quest, while tackling ghosts, and in the contemporary world.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “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 in this imaginative new book is entirely fresh. . . . Martel’s writing has never been more charming.”—Ron Charles, The Washington PostNAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPRIn 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 himself at the center of a mystery of his own and drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest. Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife. But he arrives with an unusual companion: a chimpanzee. And there the century-old quest will come to an unexpected conclusion.The High Mountains of Portugal—part quest, part ghost story, part contemporary fable—offers a haunting exploration of great love and great loss. Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, it takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal in the last century—and through the human soul.Praise for The High Mountains of Portugal “Just as ambitious, just as clever, just as existential and spiritual [as Life of Pi] . . . a book that rewards your attention . . . an excellent book club choice.”—San Francisco Chronicle “There’s no denying the simple pleasures to be had in The High Mountains of Portugal.”—Chicago Tribune“Charming . . . Most Martellian is the boundless capacity for parable. . . . Martel knows his strengths: passages about the chimpanzee and his owner brim irresistibly with affection and attentiveness.”—The New Yorker “A rich and rewarding experience . . . [Martel] spins his magic thread of hope and despair, comedy and pathos.”—USA Today “I took away indelible images from High Mountains, enchanting and disturbing at the same time. . . . As whimsical as Martel’s magic realism can be, grief informs every step of the book’s three journeys. In the course of the novel we burrow ever further into the heart of an ape, pure and threatening at once, our precursor, ourselves.”—NPR “Refreshing, surprising and filled with sparkling moments of humor and insight.”—The Dallas Morning News“We’re fortunate to have brilliant writers using their fiction to meditate on a paradox we need urgently to consider—the unbridgeable gap and the unbreakable bond between human and animal, our impossible self-alienation from our world.”—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Guardian“[Martel packs] his inventive novel with beguiling ideas. What connects an inept curator to a haunted pathologist to a smitten politician across more than seventy-five years is the author’s ability to conjure up something uncanny at the end.”—The Boston Globe “A fine home, and story, in which to find oneself.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune