I was beyond excited to pick up Yann Martel's latest book. And then I was nervous to read the vast majority of reviewers were disappointed with Beatrice & Virgil.
I read Life of Pi in Dublin, mere months before moving to Canada. I remember cancelling plans with friends to keep reading it. And rushing out on lunch break to sit on the steps in Iveagh Gardens and let it consume me. I have such a vivid recollection of the soaring elation that carried me through this book. And I hoped for something as epic and memorable from Martel again.
I'll never understand book critics. Beatrice & Virgil had me at the first page. It's narratively muddy, existentially layered, self-referencing, mythic. In all its unreality it strikes so many autobiographical chords that it's wholly believable. I tend to prefer stories that don't have a perfect arc, and this one certainly does not. There's little pleasing symmetry or justice and much explanation is missing. And, of course, I saw Beatrice and Virgil as a nod to Vladimir and Estragon, long before Beckett was even mentioned.
I read the book in two days. And I found it such a fitting follow-up from Life of Pi. It made that book and the life of the writer so real. But it did so without debunking the magic of Life of Pi, in fact prolonging it and bringing animals to life again. I was completely carried away.