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Amrita Tripathi
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 12 : 29

Beatrice and Virgil: Martel's Holocaust tale gripping


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I'm in the peculiar position of not remembering whether or not I've read a fabulous book. I know Yann Martel's Life of Pi is incredible, but now for the Life of Me (couldn't help myself!) I can't figure out whether I know that empirically or through hear-say. I know I know, I should probably just flip through it to jog my memory but nowadays with so many co-related inter-linked hyper-links I'm not even sure that would even help!

What I DO know is that I just finished reading his latest, Beatrice and Virgil. It doesn't take long, a couple of days max - not because the subject isn't heavy. Cause if there's one thing that's heavy-duty, intense and difficult to talk about, it's anything to do with the Holocaust, right? And Martel's narrator Henry learns quickly that new ways of talking about the Holocaust are just not appreciated. I like the way Martel likens the meeting Henry has with his editors and a bookstore owner and a publicist to a "firing squad"... and he definitely hits the right note with Henry's slow deflation. The theatre, the taxidermist, the taxidermist's eccentricity and strange play, Henry's cat, dog, family scene - none of this is pat... all of it held my attention.

I was mesmerized till here... enjoying myself, it felt like a strong tide.

And in the interim, I was thrown by some awful reviews doing the rounds online...poor Mr Martel's really been slammed, I thought to myself, and went right on reading.

I found it gripping right till the end. Because all of a sudden there's this what, WTF moment... why was the taxidermist the (non-spoiler alert) ___, why did it end that way? And the supplementary questions, all well-designed, and intended to provoke you to think are a little too much... why in that format and jammed right at the end?

Read it? What did you think? Tell us right here in the CNN-IBN Book Club.

P.S.: I have to say, still a huge fan of Yann Martel's writing, it's so lucid I can't get over it. I guess 'Life of Pi' is next!

(Published by Penguin Books India, Yann Martel's 'Beatrice and Virgil' is on sale for Rs 450/-)


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More about Amrita Tripathi

Amrita Tripathi is a news anchor with CNN-IBN, and also doubles up as Health and Books Editor. An MA in Philosophy from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, she has also taught a few undergraduate classes at her alma mater, informally! When she is not tracking health issues, Amrita is busy chasing the literary dream. Her debut novel Broken News was published in 2010. Before joining CNN-IBN, Amrita worked with The Indian Express.

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