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Publisher's Summary

Here are four unforgettable stories by Yann Martel, the New York Times best-selling author of Life of Pi. In the exquisite title novella, a very young man dying of AIDS joins his friend in fashioning a story of the Roccamatio family of Helsinki, set against the yearly march of the 20th century. In "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American composer John Morton", a Canadian university student visits Washington, D.C., and experiences the Vietnam War and its aftermath through an intense musical encounter. In "Manners of Dying", variations of a warden's letter to the mother of an executed man reveal how each life is contained in its end. The final story, "The Vita Eterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come", is about a young man who discovers an antique mirror-making machine that runs on memories.

Written earlier in Martel's career, these tales are as moving as they are thought-provoking, as inventive in form as they are timeless in content. They display the startling mix of dazzle and depth that have made Yann Martel an international phenomenon.

©1993, 2004 Yann Martel (P)2004 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

  • 2005 Audie Award Nominee, Short Stories/Collections

"These are stunning stories." (Booklist)
"Pathos is leavened with inventiveness and humor in this collection of a novella and three short stories....Richly satisfying." (Publishers Weekly)
"A small masterpiece....A serious and convincing work that demands to be read." (The Guardian [London])

What listeners say about The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Douglas
  • 09-02-2005

Tedious and disappointing

I really loved Martel's "Life of Pi"--a fascinating and engaging story. I had hoped to indulge in more fascinating stories by this promising writer, but evidently he hadn't yet honed his writing skills when he wrote these stories. I found all of the stories in this collection to be tedious and never really leading to an interesting conclusion. The "Helsinki" novella was so depressing, it took real effort to get through it. The "Discordant Violin" story just lacked interest; it was perhaps too ambitious for Martel to try to describe the power of a musical experience in his (here) underdeveloped style, and the way the main character hounded John Morton afterwards was a weak device intended to allow the author to express the anguish of the Viet Nam war second-hand, and it really didn't make any sense to me. "Manners of Dying" was an interesting concept, but I found the repetition of the warden's letters unnecessary and irritating. The continuous "blah, blah, blah" in the background during the "Mirror" story was an especially irritating device, although not completely ineffective.

If you read "Life of Pi", quit while you're ahead. If you didn't, make sure to read it, because Martel really made a lot of progress beyond this book. I wouldn't recommend this book, however.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Melanie
  • 12-01-2006

don't waste your time

Boring, self-indulgent and pretentious; but mostly boring. Don't waste your time.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Louise
  • 05-11-2008

Well worth listening to

I Listened to these short stories a while ago and had to write a review when I read the previous 3 opinions! I find Yann Martels subject matter challenging to listen to - these short stories are also challenging subjects but wonderfully written and well worth a listen. They are thought provoking and a welcome change to much of the happy ever after literature that we have access too. Please give them a try.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Suzanne H
  • 10-07-2007

Couldn't reel me in

"Life of Pi" is one of my favorite books of all time. I listened to it twice. The reader is outstanding. So, while I knew this would be completely different I was hoping to like it at least half as much. I just could not get drawn in. I could not finish it. (I hate not finishing books).

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • heptaskelion
  • 11-02-2015

clearly early work

enjoyable for a Yann Martel fan, but definitely not on the level of Life of Pi or his other later work.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Darline
  • 07-04-2013

Somewhere In The Middle

The author of these four stories is the same author of Life of Pi, and Beatrice and Virgil, both very good books. This book has 4 stories, two of which I enjoy and two others that were so, so. If you are looking for a short book, this book would be OK. Don't expect the same kind of writing he did on his two books I mentioned early. The last story I did chuckled a lot.

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