Before buying this book, I was intrigued by the many angry reviews claiming that Beatrice And Virgil was offensive and "tricked" the reader. I couldn't disagree more with those opinions.
There is nothing offensive in this book - there are some dark and disturbing scenes, but offensive? No, not unless many other supposedly "classic" novels throughout history covering man's darkest deeds are offensive too.
And trickery? While the reveal at the end of the book is very sudden, the author and main protagonist hint many times during the story that all is not as it seems, many times openly voicing questions about the undercurrents of the story involving Virgil, a howler monkey, and Beatrice, a donkey.
Beatrice & Virgil begins with a successful author, named Henry who coincidentally? has written a successful novel with animals as the characters. His next novel is rejected by his publishers and he takes a break from writing to reassess things. He receives a letter from a reader asking for help, along with highlighted passages from a story by Flaubert, and a scene from a play he assumes is written by the sender of the letter. Realising the address was not far from his, he decides to write back and hand deliver the letter to the reader's postbox.
When he arrives to deliver the letter he discovers the address is a taxidermy shop and he enters and ends up meeting the man who had written to him.
The taxidermist says he has spent his life writing a play and needs Henry's help with some problems he has finishing it. The taxidermist is a very odd and cold man but has written a play in which the two main characters, Beatrice & Virgil, are animals living on a shirt. Yes, a shirt. In contrast to the taxidermist's cold demeanour, Beatrice and Virgil engage in heartfelt conversations about events they can only bring themselves to call "the horrors".
Over the course of the novel, the taxidermist reads extracts of his play to Henry, who has trouble matching the author's gruff and cold aloofness to the animated and passionate animals in the story. Henry visits the taxidermist several times, trying to understand what his play is about and what message the taxidermist is trying to express with his story, all the while unable to put his finger on the dark undercurrents in the story.
At the final meeting of Henry and the taxidermist, the truth behind the story is revealed, and quite suddenly and shockingly. In fact, the entire story twists within just one sentence. With this, the story continues on very briefly, coming to an end, which while macabre, deeply sobering and dark, is far more satisfying than the ending of Martel's previous book, "Life of Pi".
For me, the mark of a great book is that you are still mulling it over in the days after you finish it, and that has been the case for me after finishing Beatrice & Virgil.
The narration was excellent - sometimes accents can bring a narrator down, but accents handled very well and overall told with a storyteller's tongue.
So many great lines in this book.
Completely silly and completely perfect. Have read this many times, but just finished audio book version read by Stephen Fry, which is a lot like having a bowl of the the best ice cream in the world and adding lots of yummy freckles and chic chips!
I really enjoyed this surreal and charming novel. After just finishing reading it, my initial thought is that the charm of the story will be the thing I will end up remembering it for. As an actual story, not a lot actually happens - like an episode of Seinfeld set in the Twilight Zone. Haruki Murakami takes a lost cat, an unemployed man, a series of strange phone calls, a marital split and offbeat characters, adds some seemingly irrelevant subplots involving a Japanese WW2 survivor and psychics and weaves a tale that goes everywhere yet nowhere. I was also amazed at how well a novel translated from Japanese can hold up as literature when read in English.
This is the second Murakami novel I have read and like the first (1Q84), the book dissolves into a vague ending where you are left wondering how all the various strands related to each other. That is sure to frustrate a lot of readers' but Murakami's magic seems to me to be the charm of the world you are entering when you begin reading his novels and the journey he takes you on.
Up until the half way point of this book, I was wondering whether I should just abandon it. Invisible Monsters begins with a scene involving a shooting at a wedding and the rest of the book is devoted to telling you how we got there. The book jumps around in time constantly, a gleeful mess that refuses to make sense until its good and ready to.
So there I was at the half way point, deciding if I wanted to take the rest of the ride. Then Chuck throws you a bone. A hilarious scene in which the protagonist (a model who has had her face shot off) has thanksgiving with her parents drew me back in. After this, the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of the story begin to thunk into place and you begin to see where the story is headed. And you smile. The second half of the book is a darkly comic tale of how all the strands of the story and the characters come together into the final train wreck of a WTF climax.
I usually don't take to female narrators (I don't know why), but Anna Fields is great here. Some of the deadpan and darkly comic moments, she really nails.
Yes, it has some wonderful turns of phrase, engaging characters and manages to be quirky and heavy in equal measures.
Hans - he handles a hard life and challenging times with admirable dignity.
The narration is wonderful BUT, the audiobook has one very large flaw. In the written version of the book, the narrator (death) will sometimes talk in asides, which are written in italics. In the audiobook, these asides are whispered and buried in echo and are often impossible to hear or understand. How the producers let this happen is mystifying and it really disrupts the flow of the story.
1. When Death steps on the picture of Hitler.2. When Death describes how Rudi makes him cry.
I'm sure this book will polarise listeners / readers. If you have your life all together, then you will most likely thoroughly dislike this needy, self centred and often pathetic man, and hate the book. If however, you have you own special basket of issues you wrestle with on a daily basis, chances are you will warm to and be charmed by this needy, self centred and often pathetic man, and love the book.
I loved the book - its one of the best I've heard on audible. Laugh out loud funny in places.
Yes - but only those who like to get down and dirty with their morals!
I don't think you can go past St Gutfree and the opening story. Listen and squirm! The story about the anatomically detailed dolls runs a close second - I almost had to pull my car to the side of the road at certain parts of that story - its hard to drive, squirm and cringe at the same time!
The one thing I would add to this is that there are really no "likeable" characters in this book, and as a group they become despicable. Thats what makes it fun ;)
Narration was excellent - probably the best I've heard in an audiobook. Perfect.
I really enjoyed this book, and intend to go on a "Chuck-a-thon" over the next few months!
The title of this book is a little misleading - I was expecting a biography. More than three quarters of this book is devoted to an examination of his theories, and very little to Stephen Hawking the man. Obviously a reader is expecting some science if choosing this book, but the illness he has lived with throughout his life is relegated to playing just a bit part in this book. By the end of the book I knew less about the man than I did his theories.
I suspect that's just the way he would want it as well, but unfortunately the portrait painted of Stephen Hawking by this book is black and white rather than the colour his life of adversity, brilliance and quirkiness could have been.
The battle of wills between creator and his creation. Just like any fantasy you need to give the author permission to take you on a ride. This was surprisingly quite a strong story, even if the science behind its premise is dubious, particularly well over a century after its writing.
The "monster". I did not realise he was a creature of such humanity and need. The story was still in my thoughts a week or so after finishing it.
No. I was expecting a poor performance as it was priced lower than other versions of the book, but it was read very well and would definitely happily listen to the narrator again.
No, but I did get through it very quickly and was always grateful for a chance to get back in the car and renew the story.One exception - The beginning of the book is told in letters, and apart from perhaps the final 2 letters, the rest are completely irrelevant to the story, and why they were part of the published book is a mystery to me.
There are a couple of random instances where the narration repeats itself for a few words. Although its very minor and probably only totals maybe 15-20 seconds over the entire book, its the worst editing I've encountered on Audible. (That comment is not aimed at putting people off this version of the book - I definitely recommend this book).
Really the only thing I'd really known about Salman Rushdie prior to purchasing this book was of course that he was the author of the Satanic Verses. This book chronicles his life up until the time of the release of that novel, and through that time in detail.
As a listener, I found the third person narrative off putting at times - 1. there are instances where more than one person are being discussed, and you often realise that the "he" who the author is talking about is now the writer, where as ten seconds earlier, the "he" in question was someone else, and 2. the third person style can come across as pompous. I am sure the author had his reason for choosing this style, most likely because the events in this memoir are indeed important, and perhaps he wished to distance himself somewhat from their importance, in other words, an attempt at humility.
The narrator insists on inserting accents for all the other people in the book, and these accents all fall into cliche. In addition to this, he also adds accents when he is simply quoting people - one of the most ridiculous instances when he quotes lyrics from Michael Jackson's song "Black & White" in a hilariously bad American accent - I nearly crashed my car laughing.....
The story however rescues this audiobook from the off putting performance.
I found myself to have a rather schizophrenic reaction to Salman Rushdie's story as I listened. There were times I found myself wondering why sometimes he needs so many words to simply say it was morning, but other times where he charmed me as he faced a horribly unfair sentence on both his life and character.
This poor man suffered through a long barrage of mindless religious zealotry and sentences of condemnation on both his life and his character, and was used countless times as a political pawn, and had no option but to roll with the punches. The revelations he makes in this book describing the cowardly way his government, the publishing industry, some fellow writers, and of course the media are an indictment on our society's bizarre views on religious tolerance. On top of this, the poor man had to deal with an undoubtedly psychopathic wife during this time. This was no man sealed off in an ivory tower - he was a man with no control over where he lived, where he went and how he lived for a very long time.
The memoir seems fairly balanced - Salman Rushdie seems quite prepared to admit his shortcomings and mistakes, and he describes his crazy and manipulative wife with far more grace than she deserved. He takes plenty of pot shots at politicians, religious clerics and others whose behaviour was abominable, but you can't blame him, and I certainly felt like he used an admirable amount of restraint. I finished the book with admiration for him and a hope that he goes on to write without the need to look over his shoulder or second guess his motives.
This is a story that needed to be told. Unfortunately, religious fanaticism is still a powerful force in these time, as we all saw only 10 years ago in New York. Somewhere down the line, I have a feeling a similar story will sadly need to be told by some other poor unfortunate victim who inadvertently offends the barbaric and superstitious.
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