The High Mountains of Portugal

After watching Yann Martel, author of The Life of Pi, on BBC Breakfast talking about his new book, I was instantly captivated by him. Yann talked about how he found out the former Canadian Prime Minister (not the current pin-up one) didn’t read fiction, so he sent him a range of books over the course of four years, and never once received an acknowledgment from him. However from the blue, he received a personal, hand-written note from Barack Obama after he read the Life of Pi telling him how much he enjoyed it.
From the short interview he gave, I knew I had to read this book and luckily for me, I bagged myself a signed copy too.

The High Mountains of Portugal – If it’s journey you want, it’s a journey you’ll get. A magic and bizarre one.

The book is made up of three separate stories that and interlinked. Part One is called Homeless, set in 1904 and features a man called Tomas, who practices a grief-stricken quirk everywhere he goes. Strange, but guaranteed you will try this quirk yourself – not in public, but perhaps to the kitchen. You’ll understand after you’ve read it. We follow him as he discovers a journal of a 17th century priest which takes him to the high mountains of Portugal in one of the first cars in Europe.

Part Two is Homeward. Set in 1938, this entire chapter takes part on one night, New Year’s Eve. A Portuguese pathologist and his wife talk in his office comparing Agatha Christie novels to  Jesus. She then leaves, and someone else arrives…..
I finished this part asking myself the simple question – wtf? wt actual f? Granted, the book takes a ‘weird’ turn. But not weird for the worst necessarily.

The final part, Home is set around a Canadian senator who misses his deceased wife terribly. He decides to move to a village in the high mountains of Portugal (aptly enough), where his parents were originally from. He brings along with him a beautiful character, a chimp called Odo, and here concludes and entwines the three stories.

After I finished the book, I wanted to talk to someone else who had read it just to clarify a point or several. The High Mountains of Portugal is a wonderfully odd and full of the unexpected. If you have any thoughts on this book, I’d love to hear them!


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