Title: Beatrice and Virgil

Author: Yann Martel

Copyright: 2010, Random House

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8154-4

Pages: 197

Date completed: 6/13/11

I generally do not gravitate toward fiction, and even less toward literature.  The difference, in my mind is that fiction is a non-true story that you read for enjoyment, whereas literature is a non-true story that you read for enjoyment, but it demands more of you.  In music terms, fiction is Bon Jovi; literature is Tchaikovsky.  Beatrice and Virgil is literature.

I’ve never read anything quite like this book.  It is a fiction story of prose with a play contained inside.  It is a truly disturbing story in the very best sense of the word.  From page to page, I never knew what to expect, and that is what kept me from putting it down.  I usually think of literature as ‘not an easy read,’ but this book was very easy to read.  A disturbing story that is very easy to read.  Seems not possible, yet Martel has accomplished it. 

I always have a hard time writing a review of fiction because I don’t want to give too much of the plot away.  So, I will do my best to intrigue you enough to read it without telling you the entire story.  Henry, the main character is a successful author who has taken a sabbatical from writing and moved to a new city where he promptly gets a job as a waiter in the local café.  Life is going along nicely, when he receives a letter from a fan of his book who has written a play.  As it turns out, the fan lives in the same city as Henry, so he stops by to see him in person.  The fan is a taxidermist by day who has written a play of Virgil (a monkey) and Beatrice (a donkey).  He asks Henry for help finishing the play.  Although he is a little weird, Henry agrees to help him, and an unusual relationship is formed.  And, here is the plot twist: this is a book about the Holocaust. 

Intrigued?  Pick up Beatrice and Virgil and read for yourself!