Book Review: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

February 28, 2011

“Beatrice and Virgil” by Yann Martel is a fictional book, a follow up to the author’s wildly successful “Like of Pi”. A strange story which is suppose to be an allegory for the Holocaust.

  • 224 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : Spiegel & Grau
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : 1400069262

Book Review: Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
My rating for Beatrice and Virgil2
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I really didn’t know what to think about “Beatrice and Virgil” by Yann Martel. I didn’t like it yet didn’t hate it either.
I was impartial to the book, I wasn’t offended, I wasn’t touched and I didn’t learn anything from it.

Maybe it was because I looked forward to reading it.

The narrator of the book is Henry, a famous author, who is taken by a play sent to him by one of this fans. The play is about a donkey named Beatrice and a monkey named Virgil. The author turns out to be a taxidermist who might have been a Nazi collaborator and the play is suppose to be an allegory for the suffering in the Holocaust. The taxidermist even has a stuffed donkey with a monkey on her back – get it?

While I found the story of the author and the taxidermist somewhat interesting, the play within the novel was banal and bored me to tears (I don’t like reading plays to begin with), the allegory to the Holocaust misguided and indifferent.

It seems to me that Mr. Martel has written the play first and when he realizes that it’s not going anywhere or simply just not that good or interesting, so he decided to frame a book around it.

As mentioned, I was really looking forward to reading this book. I had relatives who were murdered by the Nazis, and relatives who obviously survived so I find the history not only fascinating but deeply personal as well. It is obvious to me that Mr. Martel sincerely set out to write a touching story which brings several sides (survivors, tormentors, witnesses) together in order to create an emotional story considering the consequences of the Holocaust on its victims. What I read though was a story which focused on the dramatic instead of giving the reader some insight.

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More Books by Yann Martel*


Henry is a famous novelist who has moved with his wife to a new city (from Canada) and cannot find a paying job. Henry takes clarinet lessons, joins a theater company and entertains working in a chocolateria.

An envelope arrives at his home which catches Henry’s eye, it contains part of a play and a story by Gustave Flaubert called “The Legend of Saint Julian Hospitator” which is about a boy who is mean to animals and is cursed because of it.

The play is written by the sender and is about a donkey named Beatrice and a monkey named Virgil, Henry tracks down the play’s author, a taxidermist who might have been a Nazi collaborator.

TLC Book Tour for “Beatrice and Virgil”:
Monday, February 21st: Book Addiction
Tuesday, February 22nd: Nonsuch Book
Wednesday, February 23rd: Rundpinne
Thursday, February 24th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, February 25th: Musings of an All Purpose Monkey
Monday, February 28th: Man of La Book
Tuesday, March 1st: Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, March 2nd: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, March 3rd: Lit and Life
Monday, March 7th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, March 9th: Luxury Reading
Monday, March 14th: The Brain Lair

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I got this book for free from TLC Book Tours
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel


  • bookspersonallyFebruary 28, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Sounds like an interesting concept but maybe not a terrific read. Did you like Life of Pi? (I didn’t actually love it, was curious to hear what another book by this author might be like).

    • zoharFebruary 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

      I never read The Life of Pi – I guess I should 🙂

  • SuzanneFebruary 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I think if you had read Life of Pi you would have been even more disappointed in Beatrice & Virgil.

    Like you I was looking forward to reading this and I guess it just didn’t live up to the hype. I didn’t hate it but it wasn’t what I expected.

    • zoharFebruary 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

      Thanks for the comment. We’ll never know but when I read a book I try not to compare it with the author’s previous work – even though I’m sure that happens whether I want it or not.

      I do however choose my books based on an author’s previous work.

  • Lisa MunleyFebruary 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you. It seems you’re not alone based on the earlier reviews on the tour. Thanks for being on the tour, reading the book and sharing it with your readers! We appreciate it.

  • Juju at Tales of WhimsyFebruary 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Great review. Doesn’t sound for me, but I liked your review.

  • litandlifeFebruary 28, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Your first paragraph pretty much sums up what my review will be like on Thursday! I felt like the whole book was the book Henry wrote that got torn to pieces by the publisher. It just didn’t work.

    • zoharJuly 6, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Looking forward to your review.

  • LeslieMarch 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I usually like books that use animals to tell a story. Seems like this one is getting mixed reviews. I’ll probably grab a copy from the library and decide for myself.

  • PaulDailJuly 6, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I would agree on this one. I was planning on reviewing it for my own new blog (, and unfortunately, much to the same effect. I would definitely recommend Life of Pi (although, beware the hype. That always turns me off… but this one is worth it). Actually met Yann at a reading in Austin. Great guy. Love his writing. Just didn’t love this book. By the way, my blog is relatively new, but would love the support.

    • zoharJuly 6, 2011 at 10:46 am

      Great blog Paul, thanks for the comment.

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