Newest Review: ... chapter seems quite true to my knowledge of writing structure. We alternate in places between the man Pi Patel telling the story, and the... more
An enchanting and imaginative read!
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Member Name: ms_123
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Advantages: Imaginative, humorous, capivating
Disadvantages: a bit confusing in places
As a university student in London about 10 years ago I used to have to travel on the tube everyday. I remember seeing a lot of commuters reading a book called Life of Pi whilst on the train. I'd always been puzzled by the title - I thought it would have something to do with Maths and despite being a scientist and quite mathematically minded a book about Maths for light reading just did not appeal.
Fast forward to the present day, well a couple of months ago really. I was browsing through the Amazon Kindle top 100 list I spotted this book to download for free. Reading the blurb I was intrigued and decided to download this and give it a go.
Life of Pi is written by Canadian author Yann Martel. It was published in 2001 and went onto win the Man Booker prize the following year. The book is a fantasy novel and tells the tale of a young boy called Piscine Molitor Patel or Pi for short. The first part of the novel is set in Pondicherry, India, where we are introduced to Pi and his family. It becomes immediately obvious that Pi is an intelligent and observant young boy who questions the world around him. He is also deeply spiritual, having a firm belief in God and finds solace in many different religions. Brought up in a Hindu family Pi also explores Islam and Christianity, eventually converting to both without his family's knowledge.
Pi's father owns and runs Pondicherry zoo. However they decide to sell the animals, uproot and head to Canada for a better life. They loaded their worldly belongings onto a cargo ship, along with several animals that were heading for a zoo in Canada and set sail. A few days into their journey the ship has a mechanical failure of some sort and sinks. Pi is the sole human survivor, managing to scramble onto a lifeboat only to discover he has company. Several of the animals have also found their way onto the lifeboat including a hyena, monkey, zebra and a tiger called Richard Parker.
A bloodbath inevitably follows leaving Richard the tiger and Pi to rough it out on the boat. Pi soon realises that in order to survive he needs Richard to survive. Can Pi train Richard to respect and fear him? I'll leave you to read the book and find out!
Life of Pi was a book I thoroughly enjoyed and I'm pleased to report that it was not in the particularly mathematical! I found the book a little slow to begin with but after a few chapters it picked up pace. The chapters varied in length, some quite short at just a page or so long whilst others spanned several pages. None were too long though which meant that the book was easy to read in sections.
The early part of the novel is set in Pondicherry and the description of Pi's life in India is charming and beautiful. I warmed to Pi straight away and found his inquisitive nature to be quite amusing, though at times I thought he did come across as a bit of an arrogant know it all. His dabbling in the various faiths really amused me, particularly as he tries so hard to hide this from his parents. However this all goes to pot in a scene, which I found absolutely hilarious. On a walk with his family he bumps into the imam, priest and vicar who happen to be taking a walk together and Pi's conversion to all three religions is revealed. They all try to convince Pi that he must choose one of the faiths to follow but Pi is drawn to different aspects of each faith.
Once the shop sinks the novel really picks up pace and captured my imagination. I actually couldn't put the book down! Danger lurks at every turn be it through sharing the boat with a 450 pound Bengal tiger or floating in shark infested waters. I thought the story from this point onwards was very clever, witty and had many scenes, which made me chuckle and laugh out loud. Richard and Pi are marooned for several months which forces Pi to reflect and draw upon his belief and faith in God in order to survive.
I also found the relationship between Pi and Richard fascinating and the psychological methods Pi used to train Richard. Martel is incredibly descriptive in his account of Pi's 227 days at sea recording every meal eaten, every knot tied and all the other mundane tasks in great detail. I must point out though that in places this novel is quite graphic and gory. Mantel does not spare any details - these parts were extremely descriptive and well written so be warned if you are queasy about such things.
I did find one point in the novel quite confusing. After several months at sea Pi and Richard find themselves on an island in the middle of the Pacific. All seems well initially except that it turns out the island is carnivorous and so Richard and Pi quickly fled. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this section. Was it a dream? Was Pi hallucinating?
The third part of the book turns the whole plot upside down and forces the reader to question the actual turn of events. Was Pi's interpretation of events real or just a figment of his imagination - a way for him to cope with the trauma of such a situation? I thought this was very clever and took the novel from just a simple fantasy tale into something much more.
Overall, the Life of Pi was a compelling and captivating read. It held my attention throughout and I found myself racing through pages, eager to find out how the story progresses. It's one of the best books I've read in a while and is one of those types that I would gladly read again. Highly recommended.
Summary: An enjoyable read!