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Non 1001 Book Review: The High Mountains of Portugal Yann Martel



The High Mountains of Portugal was released this month. It also happens to be one of the books on our march madness brackets. If you haven’t had a chance to vote in our march book madness survey, help us out and vote here. Here’s what I thought of the book.

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★★
Find it here: The High Mountains of Portugal

This ARC was provided by Canongate Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis 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 an exploration of love and loss.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is a complex book with 3 separate but interconnecting stories. I have the feeling that I have missed a lot of the symbolism, but that has not detracted from my enjoyment of the story. When Martel finally does reveal what everything meant, (as I am sure will happen in time) I will be tempted to reread the book and that is high praise from me.

I really enjoyed the mixture of magical realism and religious debate that pervades each section. The religious arguments are well thought out and the philosophical debate is well structured giving the reader pause for thought and to question conventional wisdom.

Ultimately this is a story about love, loss, grief, and how 3 different men across the divide of time cope with these things. It is also a story about faith and redemption.

As you will see from my favourite quotes below, the writing is beautiful and descriptive. The use of language alone makes it worth reading.

My favourite quotes:

“What his uncle does not understand is that in walking backwards, his back to the world, his back to God, he is not grieving. He is objecting. Because when everything cherished by you in life has been taken away, what else is there to do but object?”

“This tiny habitation on wheels, with bit parts of the living room, the washroom, and the fireplace, is a pathetic admission that human life is no more than this: an attempt to feel at home while racing towards oblivion.”

“What are we without the ones we love?”

“What is death? There is the corpse-but that is the result, not the thing itself”

“A story is a wedding in which we the listeners are the groom watching the bride coming up the aisle”

“We all live in a murder mystery of which we are the victim”

“Faith is the answer to death”

“That’s the nature of grief: It’s a creature with many arms but few legs, and it staggers about, searching for support.”

“Sometimes I think Odo breathes time, in and out, in and out. I sit next to him and I watch him weave a blanket made of minutes and hours.”

“Home is his story with Odo.”

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoyed Life of Pi, Life After Life, or books similar in nature to these.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The High Mountains of Portugal

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? What do you think of Martel’s other books? Life of Pi was a love it or hate it book a while back. You can read that post here

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I recently read this book, but I really don’t know what to make of it. At times I hated it, and at times I really liked it. It’s themes on love and loss were touching, but I didn’t really like the religious undertones, not because I don’t agree with his views, but because at times I thought he came across as preachy.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 23, 2016
    • Hmm, I’m not sure whether I want to read it. Book Worm and I usually agree on books but I didn’t like Life of Pi and she did. Your comment makes me think I won’t like it.


      February 24, 2016
      • I liked Life of Pi though, because even though it dragged sometimes I got what he was trying to say. Higi Mountains though

        Liked by 1 person

        February 24, 2016
      • I liked Life of Pi though, because even though it dragged sometimes I got what he was trying to say. High Mountains though was a bit confusing and seem a bit of a stretch at times.


        February 24, 2016
      • Book Worm #

        Having read other reviews this looks like a perfect candidate for love it or hate it lol. The book is quirky but I like quirky.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 24, 2016

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