Yann Martel’s astonishing new novel begins with a successful writer attempting to publish his latest book, made up of a novel and an essay. Henry plans for it to be a “flip book” that the reader can start at either end, reading the novel or the essay first, because both pieces are equally concerned with representations of the Holocaust. His aim is to give the most horrifying of tragedies “a new choice of stories,” in order that it be remembered anew and in more than one way.
But no one is sympathetic to his provocative idea. What is your book about? his editor repeatedly asks. Should it be placed in the fiction section of a bookstore or with the non-fiction books? a bookseller asks. And where will the barcode go? To them, Henry’s book is an unpublishable disaster. Faced with severe and categorical rejection, Henry gives up hope. He abandons writing, moves with his wife to a foreign city, joins a community theatre, becomes a waiter in a chocolatería. But then he receives a package containing a scene from a play, photocopies from a short story by Flaubert – about a man who hunts animals down relentlessly – and a short note: “I need your help.”
This book had a very disjointed plot. It started with Henry’s novel, and the reject from his publishers. Then it meanders through his unemployment and move to a new country. Then final gets to the letter, and his first visit to the taxidermist and his play. None of these three parts really seemed connected. I’m not sure how the first two fit into the plot with the taxidermist.
Along with the unconnected plot parts came the endless lists. Every description seemed to be a longer than necessary list.
The narration was done well. The reading was slow, steady and smooth, almost hypnotic in parts. It seemed to fit the book, but that didn’t help me finish it.
Challenges read for:
2012 Audio Book Challenge
The Canadian Book Challenge 5