I rarely give a book five stars, but this one, The High Mountains of Portugal, deserves five, and maybe six, or even seven. It’s an allegory, so expect to be challenged. But read it, and you’ll walk away with images that will make you think as you’ve never thought before, laugh your deepest belly laugh, and, in quiet moments, consider if what Yann Martel is saying is something that is very, very important.
Martel must feel, deep in his soul, that animals are as deserving of our love, compassion, and care as are humans. How else to interpret the priest’s version of the crucified Jesus? The strange autopsy in the second section of the book? The love between man and ape in the third?
The book is not religious in the traditional sense. But it is deeply spiritual. The three stories, set years apart, are bound together by a quest for understanding loss, for coping with grief, and for learning to live in a world of unimaginable pain. It is possible, one must conclude, that the creatures over which we have “dominion” have much to teach us about life.
The High Mountains of Portugal deserves every prize out there, and more. I absolutely loved it.