The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann MartelTitle: The High Mountains of Portugal
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher:  Spiegel & Grau
Genres: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Rating: four-stars

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 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.

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❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃

Review: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

The High Mountains of Portugal 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.

Serial Short Stories

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.

Theme of Grief

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.

An Amazing Setting

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 by Yann Martel 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.

About Yann Martel

Yann Martel

Yann Martel is the author of Life of Pi, the #1 international bestseller and winner of the 2002 Man Booker (among many other prizes). He is also the award-winning author of The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (winner of the Journey Prize), Self, Beatrice & Virgil, and 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. Born in Spain in 1963, Martel studied philosophy at Trent University, worked at odd jobs—tree planter, dishwasher, security guard—and traveled widely before turning to writing. He lives in Saskatoon, Canada, with the writer Alice Kuipers and their four children.

13 thoughts on “The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

  1. Rebecca (@readingwishes) says:

    This sounds like such a beautiful book and that blurb is so intriguing. I’m not one for short stories because they tend to disengage me, but I can’t help but want to add this to my TBR. I think it’s because of the Portugal setting, which sounds like a character in itself. Amazing review and glad you enjoyed this one.

    • Candid Cover says:

      I am the same way. I need a full book that really digs deep and doesn’t end too quickly on me. The way that these stories tied together made me appreciate the shortness of them. 🙂

  2. dianeo says:

    I usually shy away from short stories, but this sounds fascinating. Adding it to my TBR list, thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  3. sydneyeditor1 says:

    I have seen this around and wondered about picking it up, but I wasn’t sure… the author is kind of intimidating, I guess? Thank you for this review 🙂

    • Candid Cover says:

      I didn’t find it to be that intimidating to read. I am sure that there was a lot that flew over my head, though. I think it is the type of book that you can read to just enjoy the story or to analyze and dissect. It is really up to the reader. 🙂

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