I nabbed The High Mountains of Portugal on release day and began reading it immediately. I’d been looking forward to another Yann Martel story. I’ve loved Self, The Life of Pi and Beatrice and Virgil and wondered where Martel will go next. When I reached the end of this book I started reading it all over again. I was desperate to pick up all the little pieces I might have missed first time around.
The High Mountains of Portugal is a novel in three parts. Each part has a new main character and each are connected.
Part one is set in 1904 and Tomás, who works for the National Museum of Ancient Art goes on a quest for an unusual item gifted to a church in the high mountains of Portugal. He takes his uncle’s car – a very new, very rare object in the area at the time. In fact Tomás has no idea how to drive. It quickly becomes a hilarious comedy of errors.
Part two skips us ahead to 1939 and introduces us to a pathologist who performs a very unusual autopsy.
In part three (set in 1989) Peter , a Canadian senator loses his wife. He takes a short trip to the US and from there he travels to the high mountains of Portugal, his ancestral home. His story is heartwarming.
The novel is delightfully hilarious in moments, and arrestingly sober in others.
At the end of Yann Martel’s novel The Life of Pi the main character Pi Patel asks the Japanese insurance agents who have come to interview him which story is better: the one with animals or the one without animals? The High Mountains of Portugal is the story with animals and better for it.
The High Mountains of Portugal is a wonderful parable. A magical realism tale with a mystery and clues scattered throughout. Mark Bramhall as narrator pitches the story perfectly. He creates the different characters (including at least one animal) beautifully. He conveys the extraordinary emotions throughout the book and holds the reader’s attention at all times.
The High Mountains of Portugal • by Yann Martel • read by Mark Bramhall • published by Random House Audio • February 2, 2016 • 11 hours • ISBN 9780147522856