Three episodes, thee lives, three times the High Mountains of Portugal. In his latest novel, Yann Martel escapes to the Portuguese mountains where a life as a recluse still is possible. The first chapter, “Homeless”, is set at the beginning of the 20th century and narrates Tomás’ quest for a crucifix mentioned in an old book. The second chapter, “Homeward”, leads us to Braganca in the late 1930s and Dr Lozora’s morgue where he established curious philosophical and religious theories. In “Home” finally, a Canadian politician of Portuguese origin returns to his native country accompanied by an ape.
It is rare that a book manages to combine humour with philosophy, love and death, Christianity and Agatha Christie and can entertain and challenge you at the same time. While reading, I went from great fun in the first episode (after the rather sad introduction) where we are sent back to the time when cars were new and people wondered about the strange animal. Martel could have been witness at the time; at least his account of how villagers react seems to be very authentic. What I appreciated most was the philosophy of Dr Lozora and his comparisons of crime novels and the bible. This actually shed a completely new light on the holy book and left me thinking for a while. It is rare that the love between two beings as represented in a novel can really drag me in. Yet, in the last part of this book you can hardly miss the connection between Peter and Odo which seems to be much stronger than anyone can imagine. While reading you could really feel the glow inside which bonds the two and leaves you with happiness, too.
All in all, if you are ready to go on a journey full of surprises and deep emotion of different kinds, take up Yann Martel’s novel.