I received a finished copy of this book for review from the publisher.
Title: The High Mountains of Portugal
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Summary (from Goodreads): 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 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 an exploration of love and loss.
This new collection of short stories by Yann Martel is one that will leave you thinking and digesting long after reading. While it is hard not to compare The High Mountains of Portugal to Martel’s Man Booker Prize winning novel, Life of Pi, this book of stories is just as engaging and enlightening in its own way. The writing is breathtaking and really digs deep into many themes, including grief, while transporting the reader to the incredible backdrop of the high mountains of Portugal.
Short stories can sometimes leave the reader with a sense of wanting more. When the stories are written in a serial manner, however, there is some satisfaction for the reader that at some point all will be revealed. In the first story in The High Mountains of Portugal, we are met with a quirky man named Tomás who is grieving the loss of multiple family members. This story is one that appeared to be the most developed in the collection and reveals so much about the main character. This story seemed to end to quickly and if not for the following stories that found their way back to this first one, the reader would really be left hanging.
Each of these stories examines the themes of love and grief in their own unique manner. There is a quest for one of the characters, a revelation for another and an incredible journey with a primate for the last. Although each of these tales are different, there is an element that ties them to one another that is discovered along each of these journeys. The raw emotions and the mourning that each of Martel’s characters endure is woven into a rich and beautiful tapestry that is very thought provoking and profound.
As well, all of the stories eventually take the reader and the characters to the high mountains of Portugal at some point. One will be amazed at the rich culture and simplistic ways of this region. Martel paints a beautiful picture of a place that is so cut off from the rest of the modern world and gives the reader an appreciation for this quaint and humble way of life. It is the perfect setting for his investigation of the human and animal relationship and the manner that one falls in love and mourns.
The High Mountains of Portugal is a book of short stories that examines grief in the gorgeous setting of Portugal. While this book may not be the equivalent to Martel’s other works, it is one not to be missed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys short stories and books with European settings.