What a complete and utter disappointment this novel was! I was one of the millions who adored The Life of Pi, Martel’s second novel, and so I immediately picked up on the autobiographical tone of this story. My interest was piqued with the story-within-a-story (the taxidermist’s manuscript) and the allegorical characters (a donkey named Beatrice and a howler monkey named Virgil), but as the taxidermist revealed himself to be stranger and stranger, the manuscript also became increasingly bizarre. The connections to the Holocaust were too subtle for me to pick up until Henry started to piece it together, and then it became about as subtle as being hit over the head with a board. The brutal ending—in the main story, not necessarily in the manuscript—came out of nowhere, and I was left feeling cheated on so many levels. I do not believe that too many high school students would finish this novel, even if they chose it because of their love for The Life of Pi.
Not really recommended for grades 10-adult.