I hurried to finish Martel's newest novel in time to decide if it would be a good birthday gift for a friend. The second novel written by the author of Life of Pi also casts animals as major characters, only this time instead of being face to face with a tiger on a raft, the narrator is face to face with animals in a taxidermist's store and work room.
The novel almost seamless integrates two seemingly unrelated stories about a failed Holocaust novel written by Henry (the narrator who shares some resemblance to Martel) and a bizarre relationship that he later builds with a socially-outcast taxidermist who requests his writing advice.
Martel obviously and purposely shows of his skills of description by exploiting all of the senses while writing a scene where a donkey describes a pear to a howler monkey, and again when the narrator gives writing advices to the taxidermist-turned-writer of the play starring these two unlikely friends.
I say almost seamlessly because I found the ending of the novel somewhat abrupt and contrived after all of the beautiful descriptions of Beatrice and Virgil, as well as some of the other animals in the taxidermist's shop. The novel was saturated with metaphors about writing and human (or animal) interactions and relationships, but the final pages of the book shift gears entirely. Whether this is a shortcoming of the novel or a purposeful technique in juxtaposing the good with the bad, the beautiful with the ugly is unclear to me, but I did immensely enjoy the novel and Martel's writing style and look forward to seeing more of his writing. Or maybe I too just have a weakness for animals.