Review: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Fate takes many forms. . . .

When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey—named Beatrice and Virgil—and the epic journey they undertake together.

With all the spirit and originality that made Life of Pi so beloved, this brilliant new novel takes the reader on a haunting odyssey. On the way Martel asks profound questions about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity.



Do you ever have the experience of reading a novel and when it’s over not being able to speak of it? This is how Beatrice and Virgil is for me.

After I turned the final page I sat and I looked around without seeing. I intermittently thought of other activities I could do, but felt no motivation to carry them out. I considered what I would read next, but made no move to pick up the chosen new title. Eventually I sat and thought of only Beatrice and Virgil.

Stories of the Holocaust usually leave me with the same feeling and deep contemplations one has when they are appalled and affected by the scope of such an inhumane tragedy. Beatrice and Virgil has done no less. This is a story of two writers coming together whilst on different paths of their creative journeys. As well as being about a play of two animal companions experiencing harrowing trials. Interwoven amongst these two main parts is a retelling of the Holocaust. These three pieces together is enough to create an impact and to feed a reader’s mind.

You could very well read Beatrice and Virgil as the two former without connecting it to World War II. I discovered there were oftentimes profound and touching moments without the reference being taken into consideration. However, I believe by the end, with all the pieces finally coming together, it would have a greater impact knowing and contemplating the tale as an allegory.

Another aspect of Beatrice and Virgil I found to be fascinating was reading a piece of fiction about a writer who then comes across another writer. The way Martel has written it felt akin to staggered windows opening up into the creative self. Essentially this effect is what propelled my attention after the first few pages and gave me the momentum to read beyond.

Beatrice and Virgil is a story I would recommend to all readers to read at some point in their lives. I’m aware of other readers disliking this book, sometimes with great passion, and I honestly can’t understand why. I thought it was wonderful. Beatrice and Virgil is a highlight for me this year and I really can not wait until I can read it again.

Word on the street is I love guest posters. It’s true! If you’re interested in guest posting on BA, whether it’s book reviews or something else book related, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

3 thoughts on “Review: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

  1. Have you read Life of Pi? I read that and didn’t get it, just wondered how this compared. I feel like Mantel might have something which just didn’t shine through Life of Pi for me and I’m willing to give him another chance.


    • I have, but years ago. I don’t really remember it very well, or what it was about, but I know I loved it. I don’t think Yann Martel is for everyone, but I think Life of Pi might be less obscure than Beatrice and Virgil if that helps.


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