The Helsinki Roccamatios

While I was in Wales, we went into Fopp, which is without a doubt one of my favourite stores in the UK. The stuff they sell in there is aimed squarely on my kind of demographic, and at prices generally speaking I can�t resist. So it�s generally a struggle NOT to buy something every single time I go in there. Rarely am I ever disappointed with what I come out with.
Case in point, I bought Yann Martel�s first book, or to be more precise a collection of 4 short stories he wrote back when he was my age. The main story (clocking in at 100 pages) and taking the title of the book is �The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios�. I was sceptical at first since I absolutely ADORE Life of Pi, and hold it as one of my absolute favourite books ever, and that�s saying a lot.
So going into this book, I was a bit apprehensive. Would Yann�s earlier work even come close to how powerful and polished his current stuff is? I didn�t have to fear a thing.
The story is set in the 80s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Lots of facts weren�t known about the disease. There was a glimmer of hope back then that the cure was around the corner. 20 plus years later, I can�t see us any closer to the cure. The story centres around the narrator of the story and his buddy Paul. They met in their early 20s, unfortunately Paul is diagnosed with AIDS. Yann draws upon personal experiences in all/most of his works as far as I can tell, he mentions it in his forward as well.
Step by step we meet the family and the circumstances that led to Paul getting AIDS; however the meat and potatoes of the story centres around the bond these two friends develop at the worst possible time. To keep from idle times the narrator (it�s told from his perspective, so we never seem to get his name), comes up with a plan. They�re going to tell the story of a family, based on the events of the 20th Century. They take it in turns, one takes the even years, the other takes the odd years. From the type of stories each choose to focus on, you get to see what�s on their mind, and how they�ve chosen to express themselves. It�s a fantastically simple and yet powerful idea.
You�ll slice through this story in 1 sitting probably, it�s that gripping. It does seem rough around the edges, but what�s extremely clear is that Yann had a voice, that transcended age and was destined to write great stories.