Yann Martel did it again. And this time, he changed his rule of engagement entirely although there's still a sense of familiarity in the setting. To those who have thought wonderfully about Life of Pi which won him the prestigious Man Booker Prize, will definitely not be disappointed this time round as well. I promise.
Beatrice and Virgil is about Henry, a successful writer who hit a road block in his creative endeavor. While trying to deviate from the reality of not being able to complete his task, he was half hiding and half in denial when he found himself mysteriously drawn to two fictitious friends narrated by an equally mysterious taxidermist who stood no where near Henry when it came to writing fame. The enigma of mystery finally brought Henry lessons in life that should and could never be forgotten.
To be very honest with you, when I started reading the book, it was kind of slow. Perhaps of my exceptionally high expectation on this book, thanks to Yann's extremely engaging Life of Pi. Even half way through the story, I was not particularly empathetic towards the characters. Instead, I was getting slightly impatient and was only drawn to the plot only at certain twists and turns. And then *wham*, it hit me right in the face. The crux of the story came and went very quickly but was so powerful that I had to 'rewind'. I leafed a few pages back and re-read the entire scene to fully consume the message again. You've got me, Yann. You caught me off guard ;)
The plot is tight, the climax is short but diabetic-ally sweet and it hits you in the gut. Then this overwhelming sense of guilt suddenly washes over and chide you for being such a lax reader and taking the 'point' so carelessly. It suddenly made me realised that Yann had perhaps intentionally set the pace in such a way that we (as expected by him) would see history as facts that set the mood for a lethargic afternoon, than truly embracing it as part of an important lesson to be remembered and held with such esteem so that we will never, ever allow it to repeat itself.
This book isn't just about words weaved into fiction, aimed at lulling us into another dimension of imagination. That is only half of what this book is really about. The other half is him using words as a technique to relive a part in our memory that has begun to erode...
A must read for all thinkers. And from the horse's mouth (no pun intended, Yann :)):