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The High Mountains of Portugal Summary and Reviews

The High Mountains of Portugal

by Yann Martel

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel X
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2016
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

The author of the bestselling Life of Pi returns to the storytelling power and luminous wisdom of his master novel.

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.

Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, The High Mountains of Portugal - part quest, part ghost story, part contemporary fable - offers a haunting exploration of great love and great loss, asking questions about faith and lack of faith that are at the heart of all of Yann Martel's novels.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. 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. " - Publishers Weekly

"Provocative ideas straitjacketed in an overdetermined plot." - Kirkus

"Martel's familiar trope of our interconnectedness with the animal world (realized indelibly in The Life of Pi, 2002)... 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." - Booklist

This information about The High Mountains of Portugal shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

An utterly enchanting read.
“In the course of one week – Gaspar died on Monday, Dora on Thursday, his father on Sunday – his heart became undone like a bursting cocoon. Emerging from it came no butterfly but a grey moth that settled on the wall of his soul and stirred no farther”

The High Mountains of Portugal is the fourth novel by award-winning Spanish-born Canadian author, Yann Martel. In late 1904, Tomas Lobo, an assistant curator at Lisbon’s Museum of Ancient Art, sets off to the High Mountains of Portugal in search of a seventeenth century artifact that he believes to be profoundly important.

At the start of 1939, Eusebio Lozora, a Braganca hospital pathologist, is asked to perform an autopsy under strange circumstances. In the late 1980s, Canadian Senator Peter Tovy finds himself travelling with a chimpanzee from Oklahoma to a small village in the High Mountains of Portugal.

Here are three seemingly unrelated stories which inevitably intersect: three male narrators, each mourning their awful loss. But their grief does not overwhelm their stories. Martel fills his novel with unusual, different, interesting, and often amusing, elements: a brand new 4 cylinder Renault in the hands of a novice; a welcome ghost; a diary written by a missionary to slaves; the fabled Iberian rhinoceros; a very different take on the novels of Agatha Christie; a car journey across a country with a wilful chimpanzee; and a very unusual autopsy.

Martel gives the reader some wonderful descriptive prose; there is plenty of humour, some of it dark, some of it laugh-out-loud, almost slapstick; his characters are appealing, often quirky, multi-faceted, passionate and occasionally quite naive; there are interesting plots and curious sub-plots; there is profound love, deep passion and devastating loss; all of this would make rereading this novel (perhaps even several times) an unalloyed pleasure, but this one with the added bonus of uncovering even more of the numerous common elements linking each of these three loosely intersecting tales.

Martel touches on slavery, on religion, faith and saints, the ethics of primate research, how people cope with loss, the origins of man and on learning how to be in the moment, to live in the present. There are many words of wisdom and perceptive observations. He wraps it all up in brilliant prose and presents it within a wonderfully evocative cover (designed by Simone Andjelkovic). An utterly enchanting read.

A few examples of Martel’s beautiful prose:
“Loneliness comes up to him like a sniffing dog. It circles him insistently. He waves it away, but it refuses to leave”
“Every dead body is a book with a story to tell, each organ a chapter, the chapters united by a common narrative. It is Eusebio’s professional duty to read these stories, turning every page with a scalpel, and at the end of each to write a book report”
“Stories full of metaphors are by writers who play the language like a mandolin for our entertainment, novelists, poets, playwrights, and other crafters of inventions”
“Grief is a disease. We were riddled with its pockmarks, tormented by its fevers, broken by its blows. It ate at us like maggots, attacked us like lice - we scratched ourselves to the edge of madness. In the process we became as withered as crickets, as tired as old dogs”

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Author Information

Yann Martel Author Biography

Yann Martel was born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1963, of Canadian parents who were doing graduate studies.  Later they both joined the Canadian foreign service and he grew up in Costa Rica, France, Spain and Mexico, in addition to Canada. He continued to travel widely as an adult, spending time in Iran, Turkey and India, but is now based mainly in Montreal. He obtained a degree in Philosophy from Trent University in Ontario, then worked variously as a tree planter, dishwasher and security guard before taking up writing full-time from the age of 27.

His first book, a collection of short stories titled The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, was first published in 1993.  The stories deal with themes such as illness, storytelling and the ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview

Name Pronunciation
Yann Martel: yarn mar-TELL (slight emphasis on second syllable)

Other books by Yann Martel at BookBrowse
  • Life of Pi jacket
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