Saturday, October 3, 2020

Yann Martel's The High Mountains of Portugal

If I've never mentioned it before, I often write these blog posts about books seconds before I fall asleep. That's why the posts are somewhat offbeat and windy. And this one is no different. I wrote this one in my head about two nights ago and I'm certain that I've forgotten the parts that made me laugh.

When I finished the book The High Mountains of Portugal the other night, I went online to see if I had really understood the book that I'd just finished. As it happens, according to some book analysts, I didn't.
Don't get me wrong, I did see some religious undertones and symbology. I didn't think the whole thing was a treatise on religion and grief! Superstition, allegory, and mythology certainly play their parts, though.

Yet, I have the nerve to write my own review, and forgive me, for I've returned the book to the library and don't remember deets:


The book is divided into three sections, each section with the word "home" in the title. The first section, in 1904 or so in rural Portugal, a guy, Tomas, having discovered a hint of a hidden wooden, carved figure hidden away in a church in the high mountains of Portugal, is given a car to drive to discover this wooden item treasure.

Cars were nearly nonexistent in Portugal at the time. This fellow, Tomas, learns to drive the machine as he drives out of the city and into the rural areas of Portugal. This drive of several days, maybe ten days, are among the most entertaining driving pages I've ever read! Not only does the character describe his struggle with this new-fangled machine, the people he meets in the tiny villages are equally amazed with the roaring machine as he drives into their town square and their behavior is adorable. I would I could have been there.
Speaking Portuguese.

If you go, as I did, and Google the high mountains of Portugal and, specifically, some of the villages mentioned in this book, you will not be sorry. It's beautiful.
The entirety of rural Portugal should be a puzzle.
(High praise.)

I'm thinking that the machine that Tomas was driving looked something like this. >>>
Or thereabouts.


This journey to find the treasure takes our hero Tomas on country roads that give him the thrilling experience of going at least twenty miles per hour!
This third of the book was almost entirely delightful. Surely some will find the talk of engines and leather and lights and the idiosyncrasies of early driving a total bore. I did not.

Second section, we're about thirty-five years in the future and, somehow, in the morgue with a Portuguese forensics guy. He's working late when his wife visits with dinner, wine, and some Agatha Christie books. They discuss his wife's theory that Agatha Christie's books somehow reveal religious overtones, truths, and explanations. None of it made a lick of sense to me, but I requested Aggie's titles from my local library nonetheless... and enjoyed the repartee between the couple.

And then the morgue guy is visited by a woman who brings him a dead body in some luggage, yes, to be autopsied. Upon opening up the body of the woman's husband, the pathologists discovers a cache of bizarre items, only a few of which could I connect with any other part of the story. But OK, a bit of magical realism that did bring color and, weirdly, delight, to the entire autopsy experience. Perhaps, especially, the flute.

And, thirdly, the last segment of the book brings up a Canadian politician, after retiring, making several BIZARRE* changes in his life. Some entertaining connections are made. I enjoyed his experiences that I choose to not be specific about because that might give away too much...just in case you decide to read this book.

But allow me the latitude to say that I enjoyed what I THINK was something of a shape of the story. Beginning with a back-to-simplicity and ending with a truly back-to-nature series of events and life choices. To me, that was a beautiful journey.
Like going back home, only more so.

Although I had to go figure out what I'd just read, eventually I just accepted my own read of the book. And I say this, it was oddly tender and funny and introspective and surprising. Yes, and bizarre.
And that's saying something about a book that seems to be about grief...

This seems like a fun book to use with a book club. So many ways to interpret things...but better you than me. I think I'd feel unschooled!

I'm left with some curiosity about the author,
Yann Martel. I think I'll go read more about him.  🙂
This book is a zillion miles from The Life of Pi.
I think.

I give this book seven stars for the gorgeous healing and journeys that one experiences during the reading of this book.

  * I SELDOM read books that require this frequency of use of the word "bizarre". LOL

 Have you read it?

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