Book Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Preview…“Life of Pi”—love it or hate it, read this book and you are sure to form a strong opinion. Yann Martel tells this story through first person narrative of an aged Pi Patel looking back at various scenes from his child- and early adulthood. Pi is a very interesting character, to say the least. As a boy, Pi stumbles upon Christianity and Islam, deciding to practice them both in tandem with his mother religion, Hinduism. Each religion provides Pi with various models for interpreting the dire circumstances he later finds himself in and encourages him to strive towards survival.
These dire circumstances unfold surrounding the sinking of Tsimtsum, the boat that was carrying Pi and his family—along with some animals for sale from the family’s zoo—to their new life in Canada. As the ship begins to go down, Pi is thrust into a life boat by the ship’s crew and is later joined by a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a tiger.
The hyena quickly devours—eats alive, actually—the zebra, and also kills the orangutan in a most savage manner. The tiger jumps to action, disposing of the hyena. This leaves Pi alone with this tiger, endearingly dubbed Richard Parker. Together Pi and Richard Parker spend 227 days cast away on the open sea. The main text of the story recounts Pi’s strategies for survival and his methods for keeping the ravenous tiger at bay. A twist ending brings whole new meaning to the novel.
You may like this book if… you love twist endings, you are into survival stories, you love the idea of exploring one topic in great depth, you like zoology and religion, you believe that all religions have similar teachings, you like stories told in first person narrative, you are interested in how the mind works and how we cope with tragedy
You may not like this book if… you don’t like books that make highfalutin claims like “This story will make you believe in God”, you have a weak stomach and don’t want to read detailed descriptions of the once vegetarian Pi’s hunting of sea life and eventual cannibalism, you like stories with a lot of rising and falling action and several different plot points, you don’t enjoy stories that include far-fetched elements (such as a man-eating island), and just an FYI—don’t think that you won’t like this book because you hated “Old Man and the Sea” by Hemingway (I hated that book too, but loved this one)