When you write one of the most loved books ever in Life of Pi, and then take eight years to publish a new book you are bound to create an atmosphere of anticipation. When that new book, Beatrice and Virgil, then uses parable to tackle the Holocaust, the chances are it will receive a passionate response. Across the world Yann Martel’s new novel is dividing opinion and creating discussions. This is a book that allows no fence sitting.
In the New York Times, renowned reviewer Michiko Kakutani was moved to comment that she found ‘Beatrice and Virgil, …every bit as misconceived and offensive as his earlier book was fetching’. Independent San Francisco bookseller Booksmith delivered a quick riposte via The Huffington Post explaining why the New York Times got it wrong and why readers should tackle this novel and add ‘your own voice to the discussion’.
Our region has been no stranger to the controversy either and Beatrice and Virgil has drawn animated reviews from such heavyweights as The Monthly and Financial Review. Australian Literary Review editor Stephen Romei entered the discussion too: ‘I think it is brilliant and funny and moving, and our reviewer Hilary McPhee agrees (and such alignment doesn’t happen as often as you may think). I’m keen to see what others make of it.’
It is also stirring the hearts as well as the minds of critics all around Australia and New Zealand:
‘Beatrice and Virgil is a weird, brave, looping book that does not pull punches.’ Hilary McPhee, Australian Literary Review
‘Martel has again delivered a complex, stunning and important work.’ Courier Mail
‘A fascinating tale that is both enchanting and confronting.’ The Big Issue
‘This is a brilliantly worked, eerily confident performance. There has been nothing like it since his last. And as for writing of animals, no one has been as good as Henry/Martel since D.H. Lawrence and Ted Hughes.‘ Sydney Morning Herald
‘A startlingly original work, and fans of Life of Pi are certain to devour it.’ Herald on Sunday
Join us on Facebook and let us know what you think. Visit the ‘Discussions’ board and argue your feelings for this monumental book.