With this highly anticipated new novel, 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 suspenseful, mesmerizing story of a great quest for meaning, told in three intersecting narratives touching the lives of three different people and their families, and taking us on an extraordinary journey through the last century. We begin in the early 1900s, when Tomás discovers an ancient journal and sets out from Lisbon in one of the very first motor cars in Portugal in search of the strange treasure the journal describes. Thirty-five years later, a pathologist devoted to the novels of Agatha Christie, whose wife has possibly been murdered, finds himself drawn into the consequences of Tomás's quest. Fifty years later, Senator Peter Tovy of Ottawa, grieving the death of his own 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 miraculously mesh together.
Beautiful, witty and engaging, Yann Martel's new novel offers us the same tender exploration of the impact and significance of great love and great loss, belief and unbelief, that has marked all his brilliant, unexpected novels.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Anyone who’s read Life of Pi knows that Canadian author Yann Martel has a gift for turning preposterous situations into emotionally rich and spiritual fables. In many ways, The High Mountains of Portugal contains plot twists more fantastical than spending 227 days on a meagre raft with a ferocious tiger. There’s a Book of Job–grade disastrous car trip, a mind-blowing autopsy, and many strange encounters with chimpanzees. We weren’t sure what to make of it all, but by the end of the three interlocking chapters, we were mesmerised and uplifted by Martel’s propulsive, magical realist take on faith and the good life.
An Iberian rhinoceros, two chimpanzees, three dead wives, and two dead toddlers all figure in this highly imaginative novel. Martel's narrative wizardry connects three novellas set seven decades apart in the eponymous region of Portugal. In the first section, titled "Homeless" and set in 1904, Tom s Lobo, a young resident of Lisbon whose wife and son have died, begins to walk backward "to face the uncertainty of the future," since everything he cherished in life has been taken away. Though he has lost his religious faith, he vows to find a "strange and marvelous" crucifix that resembles a chimpanzee in a church in the tiny village of Tuizelo. His quest goes awry in highly comic ways: an episode that finds him naked in a meadow rubbing lice powder over his body rivals the hilarious meerkat scene in Martel's Life of Pi. Characters from Tuizelo figure in the second section, "Homeward," set in 1938. A pathologist receives a visit from his dead wife and later discovers a dead chimpanzee curled in the body of a man on whom he does an autopsy. Martel handles this improbable scene with convincing magical realism. "Home," the third section, is set in 1981 Canada, where a politician mourning his dead wife impulsively buys a chimpanzee called Odo and travels to Tuizelo, where he was born. His grief is assuaged and his faith is restored by the ancient crucifix and the simple pleasures of country life. Martel is in a class by himself in acknowledging the tragic vicissitudes of life while celebrating wildly ridiculous contretemps that bring levity to the mystery of existence.