Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
I couldn't wait to read this book, having so loved Life of Pi, Yann Martel's last novel. After finishing it, though, I'm left scratching my head, trying to decide if I liked it or not.
The story centers around an author, Henry, who is living off the proceeds of a wildly successful first novel (throughout the story, you can't help but wonder how much of himself the author projects into his character) but then suffers the brutal rejection of his second book. He meets a mysterious old taxidermist who is writing a play, the two main characters of which are a donkey and a howler monkey, based upon a stuffed donkey and a stuffed howler monkey who reside in his shop. The taxidermist enlists Henry's help in the writing of the play, which is disjointed, largely nonsensical, and very strange.
It's a well-written novel; Yann Martel clearly has a brilliant mind. This story, like Life of Pi, is full of the unexpected. Not everything is what it appears to be on the surface, and the reader is left to figure out - or decide - what is real and what is not, and what is symbolic and what is literal.
It held my interest enough so that I read it in a couple of days, but I don't think it will stay with me like Life of Pi did. Definitely a worthwhile read, though. Mine's up for grabs if anyone wants it.