When I picked this up from Booksale, I was amazed to find it priced so low for a hardbound book, and from such a popular author, too!
The book is a collection of four award-winning short stories written by Yann Martel. The stories are: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin by the American Composer John Morton, Manners of Dying, and The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company
My favorite is the is the first one featured, Helsinki. First I must tell you how awesome reading this melancholic, subtle, erudite story is and second, how Yann Martel's style of writing is so different from what I read in Life of Pi.
Helsinki begins in a most depressing manner: the protagonist has found out that his closest friend is dying of AIDS. He goes to the hospital and gives all the comfort he can provide to his friend. One of the ways he thought of to help his friend take his mind off the pain and the despair is through writing. With an Encyclopedia to trace the important events in history from the early 1900's until the 1980's, they collect tidbits of historical events and used it as the backdrop for their fictional saga about the Roccamatios family of Helsinki. And here the premise becomes more complex as it unfolds. I was simply so amazed at the juxtaposition: historical events all over the world, and how it affects and reflects a life.
The ending of the short story was very moving, and it seemed, for me, all the other stories were subpar. It kind of felt real -- the heartfelt kind. If you see this book anywhere, give it a chance. The title story is a killer.