Sunday, August 14, 2016

The High Mountains of Portugal: a book club review

I love Yann Martel - at least, I think I do. Life of Pi was one of the most moving, thought-provoking fables I've read; his short-story collection The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccomatios changed my mind about the validity and power of short-stories; and Beatrice and Virgil was intriguing and rewarding, especially as a 'writer who reads.' So I was thrilled when Martel's latest novel, The High Mountains of Portugal was selected for a summer book club selection. Unfortunately, the thrill didn't last.

Far be it from me to doubt the power of Yann Martel's writing, but I was relieved when, at long last, I got to the end of this novel. I didn't hate reading it, but it felt like an endurance test. I'm more of a sprinter. The story is presented in three parts, over three separate yet linked stories, and with recurring themes. As always Martel uses humanity's distance from and relationship to animals to highlight the human condition.  And again there were magical elements woven into the otherwise realist story. But, it just never sang. There were spots of beauty, but they didn't occur with the kind of consistency that I need to stay engaged with a story.

My disappointment in this book isn't enough to keep me from recommending it, or from reading whatever Martel produces next. It is enough, however, to dull the glow of my ardour.

I have been so lax about reviews the last while - even book club reviews. I've thought about maybe doing video reviews instead, but I hate being on camera. So, anyway. I don't know if there will be more. I'm fairly ambivalent about blogging, and the reviews, and book club in general. That said, this month we had a phenomenal mini-retreat day trip to Lake Cowichan. Although the total drive time was longer than the visit time, the lake and the food were lovely. There's just something about being offline, out of town, sitting in the breeze off a lake.

Beautiful Lake Cowichan, from the dock

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