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The High Mountains of Portugal: A Novel by…
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The High Mountains of Portugal: A Novel (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Yann Martel (Author)

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5623525,343 (3.51)30
Member:kathytapia
Title:The High Mountains of Portugal: A Novel
Authors:Yann Martel (Author)
Info:Spiegel & Grau (2016), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:fiction

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The High Mountains of Portugal: A Novel by Yann Martel (2016)

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English (34)  Dutch (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Impossible to discuss this book without a)spoiler alerts, b) sounding like a lunatic. I loved [b:Life of Pi|4214|Life of Pi|Yann Martel|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320562005s/4214.jpg|1392700], but this one had me losing my patience. There is a great deal of things to discuss - religious references, biblical metaphors, and other stuff woven into he story. There is also way too much info about an old car, what it was like to drive the car (ad nauseum..), chimpanzees, and other topics that I had very little interest in reading about for such extended periods of time. There were times I wanted to drop the book, and times when I was struck by it's brilliance. There is magical realism and many things I did not really "get".
This is a book that invites much discussion, and I'm sure the discussion would be fun, but unless you like old cars and apes this book will try your patience. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
I listened to this book which was very ably narrated by Mark Bramhall. Still I wonder if I missed something by listening to it instead of reading it because it seemed very bizarre to me. I did return to a few portions to make sure I had heard what I thought I had heard (more details about that later). I read and liked Martel’s previous work, The Life of PI. It too had its strange moments but seemed more coherent than this book. My book club will be discussing it shortly so I’m anxious to see what the other members thought of it.
There are three separate pieces to The High Mountains of Portugal but there are connections between them. The first occurs in the early days of the 20th century. Motor vehicles are a new invention. When a researcher comes across a diary written by a priest a few centuries earlier he is intrigued. The priest served in Angola and then an island in the Gulf of Guinea when slavery was in full swing. The diary shows the decline in the priest’s physical and mental health. It also documents a crucifix the priest was carving. This crucifix ended up in a church in the High Mountains of Portugal and the researcher is determined to find it. His rich uncle offers him the use of one of his motor vehicles to get to this remote region. The car is a Renault which his uncle refers to as the Iberian rhino, an animal now extinct. The researcher has been very depressed since his young son, his lover and his father all died in quick succession. The nephew has developed a quirk since these losses; he only walks backwards. No doubt the uncle thinks this trip will lift his nephew’s spirits. In the end, it does little for his mental health especially since he causes the death of a young boy.
The second part takes place on New Year’s Eve in 1938. A Portuguese pathologist is working late in his office when a knock comes at his door. It is his wife with a bottle of wine and some Agatha Christie mysteries. She has come up with a theory about interpreting the Bible using Agatha Christie books. Then she leaves exhorting her husband to not work too late. Another knock on the door is an old peasant woman with a big suitcase. It contains the body of her husband which she has brought from her village in the High Mountains of Portugal for the pathologist to examine. Although this is irregular the pathologist agrees and he finds many unusual things in the body including a chimpanzee (this is one of the parts I had to listen to a few times). After he writes up his notes he puts them in an envelope and puts everything he removed from the body into the suitcase. He falls asleep at his desk where the clerk finds him in the morning. From the clerk we learn that the pathologist’s wife died some time before.
The third part is set in more modern times. A politician who has been appointed to the Canadian Senate is also grieving the death of his wife. He is sent on a junket to Oklahoma where he goes to a primate research centre. There he meets a chimpanzee who immediately bonds with him. He strikes a deal to buy the chimpanzee and then takes him to the small village in the High Mountains of Portugal where he was born. This is the same village where the researcher found the priest’s crucifix and the same village that the woman who visited the pathologist was from. So all the threads do weave together but the ending is one of the most bizarre parts of the book (another part I listened to several times).
Obviously grief is a continuing theme throughout the book. Maybe men grieve differently than women because I can’t say I have ever seen a woman start walking backwards or bonding with chimpanzees. Or maybe just in Yann Martel’s imagination grief takes unusual forms. I can’t say I disliked the book but it is one of the most bizarre that I have read. ( )
  gypsysmom | Apr 5, 2018 |
I had read and enjoyed The Life of Pi by this author and looked forward to a comparable read. The story began well for me and I especially enjoyed the early experiences the protagonist had with the motor car. Then it became one disaster after another, the original focus seemed to subsumed by these personal disasters and I lost interest in the book. I did not finish it. ( )
  TGPistole | Mar 21, 2018 |
Told in three different sections, the first section hooked me, the second kept me there, but the third was a letdown. The first section is a story set in 1904 when Tomas decides to find a religious relic that he has read about in his job as a museum curator. The relic is a carved crucifix in which Jesus resembles a chimpanzee. He sets off in his uncle's very early automobile to the high mountains (which are really hills) of Portugal. Along the way, he angers, astonishes, scares, or otherwise upsets people in the small villages along the way who have never seen an automobile. The assumption is strange, but the writing is often beautiful.

The second section is set years later in the lab of a pathologist who does autopsies. A strange woman brings a suitcase containing her dead husband for him to discover "how he lived." The gross, highly detailed description of autopsy is almost sickening to read. The woman showed up earlier in Tomas' story as well. And, the autopsy shows a chimpanzee in the body of the husband.

The third section for me was a real let down. A Canadian senator spontaneously purchases a chimpanzee in Oklahoma when he was there on an official visit. He has just lost his wife so he is grieving and decides to find solace in his ancestral home in the high mountains of Portugal bringing Odo, the chimp along with him. This section totally left me cold and I was so disappointed in the ending. Just not sure where the author was trying to take the reader. ( )
  maryreinert | Feb 20, 2018 |
I enjoyed this book, although there were parts that became too long. The ending was going to be obvious as well. It had to be, as an informed reader would realize that the third story had to tie all 3 parts of the novel together. Other reviewers call the third story the best. It wasn't really, in terms of skill. It was just the most satisfying because it resolved. Also, I think critics have missed the point by saying the book is about grief. The book is about the nature of love and being. This theme is loosely connected through the character of a chimpanzee in all three stories. Finally, what I don't see mentioned in other reviews is the search for the holy grail that is implied in the endangered Iberian rhinoceros. It's a fine archetype, and serves the overall novel well. Again, an informed reader would see it coming. But it was still nice. The second story which directly applied magical realism was one of the clearest and most enjoyable I've ever read. The center of the story was truly it's heart, a bit preachy at times but forgivable. There is so much more I would like to say, but I'll leave it at this. It's literary fiction, not everyone's cup of tea. Like one reviewer, I felt the end only made me want to go back to the beginning. ( )
  MsKathleen | Jan 29, 2018 |
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To Alice, and to Theo, Lola, Felix, and Jasper: the story of my life
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Tomas decides to walk.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
The High Mountains of Portugal is about love, loss, God, man, & apes against a Portuguese backdrop.
Haiku summary
Walk backwards in grief/
spouses united at death/
man and ape run free
(Jen MDB)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812997174, Hardcover)

The author of the bestselling Life of Pi returns to the storytelling power and luminous wisdom of his master novel.
 
The High Mountains of Portugal is a story about love, loss, and faith that take us on a mesmerizing journey through the last century. Told in three intersecting narratives—part quest, part ghost story, part contemporary realism—the novel begins in the early 1900s, when a young man named Tomás discovers in the archives of Lisbon an ancient journal describing an extraordinary artifact that he believes will challenge the church’s understanding of religion forever and sets out for the High Mountains of Portugal in search of it. Thirty-five years later, a pathologist devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie is drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest as he finds himself at the center of a murder story. And fifty years after that, Senator Peter Tovy of Ottawa, grieving the death of his beloved wife, rescues a chimpanzee from an Oklahoma research facility and takes it to live with him in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, where the strands of all three stories come together.
 
Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, Yann Martel’s new novel offers a haunting exploration of great love and great loss, asking questions about faith and the lack of faith that are at the heart of all his novels.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 11 Aug 2015 15:13:54 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomâas 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 Tomâas'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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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