Saturday, 20 February 2016

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

In The High Mountains of Portugal, author Yann Martel has cleverly woven four tales of grief into an adventurous journey across Portugal.

In Part One (1904), we meet Tomas, who mourns his lover and young son, as he drives an early Renault into the mountains in search of long lost artifact. He is following the trail of crucifix made centuries ago by Father Ulisses, a missionary to Sao Tome, who left clues to it's creation in  his journal.  It was also a testement to the grief of losing his faith.

I was captivated by this section.  I enjoyed learning of the difficulties Tomas encountered on his trip and how he strove to overcome them. 

In Part Two (1938), we meet pathologist Eusebio Lozora, who is expected to perform the autopsy of his wife.  This is the one section of the book that I had trouble with.  I admit that I really didn't understand the wife.  She did draw some interesting parallels involving Agatha Christie.

In Part Three (1981), Peter Tovy has just been appointed to the Canadian Senate.  He is at loose ends, not having recovered from the loss of his dear wife.  I loved the tale of how he ended up with a chimpanzee in Portugal.  I could not put the book down once I reached this section.

These four men all deal with their grief in very different ways.  Mr. Martel has used the freedom of fiction to explore various ways of expressing their pain.  I am left pondering this round trip, return to the high mountains.  Did the journeys of these men provide a balm for their grief.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada

No comments: