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
Life of 3.14159265358979323846 264338327950288419R 03;71693993751058209
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Member Name: isobelj
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Advantages: Beautiful prose, a wonderful story
Back in 2002, I was 16 and when I read The Life of Pi it was completely lost on me. I thought it was flippant, unbelievable, and a bit boring.
Well, that's because 16 year old me was an idiot! When I re-read the novel this year, I was captivated from the faux-foreword on page 1. I laughed and cried as the narrative demanded; I was putty in Yann Martel's skilful hands.
The story is of a young Indian boy named Piscine Molitor and nicknamed Pi. His father owns Pondicherry Zoo, and Pi and his brother have been brought up through the 70s working with the animals. When the political situation in India becomes tense, the family sell most of their animals, and head aboard a boat to Canada with the few remaining ones. On the way, the boat sinks and Pi finds himself aboard a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, a hyena and a zebra. As the story is being told by an adult Pi to the author, we know he survives the journey - the question is, how?
Although this novel is much deeper than it might first appear, on the surface it's an adventure story. It's the tale of how Pi survives and what tactics he uses to stay alive and sane for 227 long, lonely days. He has the animals to deal with, and he needs food, shelter and water. We follow Pi as he applies everything he ever learned about animals to the extreme situation he is in, and learns to use the survival equipment on board to help him. There are times when you're on the edge of the seat - even though you know he survives, you don't want Pi to come to any harm at all. Pi is a really likeable character, resourceful, warm and bright, and every time he does something on that boat all I could think was that as a teenager on a boat with a tiger, all I could have done was curl up in a corner and cry.
Whilst Pi is recounting his early years growing up in the zoo, he introduces one of the main themes of the novel, which is faith. At fourteen, despite being born Hindu, Pi begins to embrace Islam and Christianity as well. His parents and religious leaders find this difficult to understand, but I loved the way Pi could use each religion to look at God and the world in different ways, and pick out the parts that he loves the best. He is trying to love his god the best way he can, and is trying to be the best person possible, but his efforts are misunderstood by more conventional believers. It is partly Pi's faith that keeps him going on the boat.
Towards the end of Pi's journey, things start to get more surreal. As he appears to slip in and out of reality, you start to wonder whether the events that are being narrated are exactly as they appear. At the very end of the novel, things are turned completely on their head, and you find yourself left with what some would see as an unresolved ending but what I choose to see as the freedom to decide what happened for yourself.
The best thing about this book, by far, is the humour. Despite the tension and the really low points that Pi reaches, the author weaves dry wit in and out of the narrative whenever possible. Throughout this book I was either laughing or crying about 70% of the time! The prose is really engaging and it just pulls you in to the story. The descriptions are perfect - whilst there's enough to give you a really vivid picture of the surroundings, you can also let your imagination loose a little bit.
After reading this book I couldn't believe that I had ever found it boring! There are tons of books that I read when I was younger that I find myself wanting to pick up again now to see if I foolishly rejected other wonderful books. The story is rich and deep and funny, the prose is descriptive and magical, and the themes are fascinating. This is one of those books that you won't be able to put down. It's beautiful, and so much cleverer than it first appears.
The price varies online but you can buy this for around £5-£7.
Summary: A must read