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 Pi - Yann Martel
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Member Name: ladyofcampfires
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Advantages: Thought provoking and addictive read, strong and likeable main characters.Very unexpected ending.
Disadvantages: Can be a difficult read in places, probably not for everyone.
Piscine Molitor Patel, also known as Pi, is a sixteen year old boy sailing from his home in India to his new home in Canada on the cargo ship Tsimtsum along with his brother Ravi, parents and a collection of his Father's zoo animals which are to be sold in America. As expected, Pi isn't overly fond of the idea of moving to a completely new and different country, leaving everything and everyone he knows and loves behind would be no easy challenge but this soon becomes in the least of his worries. On July 7th 1977 the Tsimtsum ship sinks leaving Pi the only human survivor on a life boat floating on the Pacific Ocean. He isn't entirely alone though. He does have a zebra with a broken leg, a hyena, a female orang-utan and a male Bengal tiger for company. What follows is an epic tale of love, hope, brutality, death and faith.
I have to admit I hadn't heard of this book until recently when the advertisements for the film adaptation were popping up left, right and centre. The story line appealed to me greatly and I wasted no time in downloading the book onto my kindle before allowing myself to watch the film and I'm very glad I did so as Life of Pi really is the best book I've read in a long time, it's easy to see why this was the 2002 Man Booker Prize winning novel.
The book is written in first person from the perspective of an all grown up Pi, the first hundred or so pages are a detailed account of his childhood growing up in a Zoo in Pondicherry, India. We learn how he got his unusual name and why he decided to re-brand himself as 'Pi', we discover his rather unusual choice of deciding to be a Hindu, Muslim and Christian, we learn of his idols and role models, his favourite animals and his relationships. At first it does seem like the book is taking an awful long time to 'kick in' with the main plot of the story, the sinking of the ship and the events which follow, not appearing until quite a way into the book. It soon becomes apparent, however, that these little details are important and they really help you as a reader develop a great fondness towards Pi. He's turned into a solid character quickly and is impossible not to like. Whilst this introduction may not be the most important part of the story line, the first part of the book is an enjoyable read all the same.
When we do get to the ship sinking and Pi being on that life boat with his little collection of animals what follows is quite unexpected. To put it simply, it's a realistic account of what probably would happen if you were to find yourself in that position. Richard Parker, the 450 pound Bengal tiger becomes a solid character himself and is present for a lot of this story but he is never humanised. He always remains a tiger, an animal which could quite easily and possibly kill Pi at any given moment. Whilst Pi finds courage and hope through Richard Parker, there are no unrealistic scenes of cuddles during sleep or even much touching or talking between the two of any kind for that matter.
The chapters are mostly short; this not only makes it extremely easy to sit reading the book well into the early hours of the morning (I kept telling myself one more chapter wouldn't hurt when I had to be up early for work the next day) but also creates quite a powerful narrative. One chapter is a mere sentence long, it is also possibly the most emotional sentence in the book which would have lost a lot of its power and meaning had it just been stuck in one of many paragraphs making up a more conventional chapter of a novel.
Religion and faith are strong, prominent themes within this book. It doesn't ever feel like such beliefs are being forced down ones throat though. Yann Martel gives the impression that Pi is a very tolerant and open minded person in this subject and he conveys that perfectly in Pi's personal but never preachy references to god and religion.
What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the way Martel gives so much detail about events and experiences which happened to Pi during his time on that life boat. These little and more than likely well researched details again just make the story so much more real and believable. Details which I feel many other authors would have probably deemed unimportant and not worth mentioning really make this book as good as it is.
Life of Pi probably isn't for the faint hearted though. If you enjoy a light, easy read then this probably isn't for you. Death and killings are described in brutal detail as is pain and suffering both physical and mental. This is a book which will, on occasion, make you wince in horror and will always tug on your heart strings and be rather thought provoking.
One criticism I would make is in the narrative. As mentioned, this book is written from the perspective of an adult Pi which does take the suspense away from the story a little as you know that, no matter what happens, Pi is obviously going to be okay. Having said that Martel does make up for that entirely by giving us a very unexpected ending which frankly has played on my mind since I finished the book!
I would highly recommend Life of Pi to anyone who likes a 'deep' read. Whilst utterly awful events may happen Pi continues to show awe inspiring hope and faith and this certainly is a book which will have you constantly thinking and constantly reading. Life of Pi definitely gets five stars from me.
Published by Canongate Books Ltd, 2002.
ISBN - 978 0857865533
Pages - 464
Price - £6.29 from Amazon (from £3.52 new and £3.53 used) Kindle Edition 20p (bargain)!
Summary: A truly captivating book which I strongly recommend.