The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Random House Publishing Group kindly gave me permission to read an advance readers copy of this book. I send them my kindest thanks, once again.

Reviewing this book is definitely a challenge for me. I'd never read any of Yann Martel's books before, not even Life of Pi, so I came into this book with no personal expectations, no preconceived idea of what it would be like. I was really in for a surprise! Each of the book's three parts tells a different story, and yet they each have things in common, things which link them all and brings them together at the end. I feel like my emotions were taken on a roller-coaster ride through the region of Portugal as well as through the unfortunate lives of the characters in focus throughout the story.

The story starts with Tomás, a young man living at the turn of the 20th Century. His story describes his exhausting journey from Lisbon to the High Mountains of Portugal by car, a machine that so many people hadn't seen or heard of at that time in the rural areas. He is searching for something very specific, of religious importance perhaps, but mostly of human importance. His tale had me laughing very hard in places, and also very, very sad in others, especially at the end of his part of the story.

Part two is harder for me to review. The first half of it is very religious, with a Portuguese pathologist being told by his wife what she has discovered about the bible stories through reading Agatha Christie. Not being religious, I found this section both curious and also heavy going. However, after his wife leaves, the story becomes very disturbing as he performs an autopsy on an old man who was delivered to him in a suitcase. What he finds inside the man had me so stunned that I found it very hard to clear my mind before sleeping. It was incredibly creepy and dark!

In the final part, we follow an Canadian senator who is sent to Oklahoma by his Whip for a few days. When there he visits a primate research centre, where he meets a chimpanzee called Odo.He forms an immediate bond with thic human-like being, and decides to buy it. This simple act changes his whole life as he moves, with Odo, to his ancestral home guessed it...the High Mountains of Portugal. His tale is wonderfully funny and full of great observations about behaviour and the interaction between one man and his chimp. This was my favourite part of the book by far for it's wonderful, flowing nature and sheer brilliance.

The whole book is about love both lost and found, abut how our actions can impact others, and about how well we react to changes in circumstance. It is well worth a read!

Star rating: 5 from 5 - esplendoroso!