Yann Martel – The High Mountains of Portugal (3 stars)

Yann Martel: The High Mountains of Portugal

A trio of stories with a deeply poignant message from Life of Pi author

Continuing his fascination with the relationship between humans and animals, Yann Martel has produced a triptych of stories spanning nearly a century, all centred on a small village in the high mountains of Portugal.

Presented as an allegory of creationism, each piece has its own protagonist, from the loveable Tomás (who 1904 takes a road trip in 1904 aboard a fascinating invention known as an automobile), to the doctor who makes an astonishing discovery during an unusual post-mortem. And then there’s Peter, the Canadian politician who, overcome with grief after the death of his wife, buys a chimpanzee and moves to his ancestral Portuguese home. The seemingly disparate stories link fluidly as an old family secret is slowly revealed to Peter.

The prose is sharp, comical, and carries a deeply poignant message: though religion may be one person’s belief structure and another’s laughing stock, it is important to humanity. In places though, Martel has sacrificed pace and plot with deep metaphors, which leaves the novel an intriguing mystery but one that fails to match the inventiveness of Life of Pi.

Published Tue 2 Feb by Canongate Books

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