Life of Pi by Yann Martel

My best friend recommended this book to me a couple years ago. The cover looked interesting as did the premise, and it was a pretty popular book so I decided to take a look. I read it through, decided I didn’t know what to think of it, and now a couple years later have come back to it. I’m still not quite sure what to think of it, but I honestly wasn’t that fond of it.

Pi is a young Indian boy growing up in the french settled area of India. His father is a zookeeper and young Pi roams around the zoo and to various religious practitioners spending his day with animals and those of the faith of Muslim, Christian, and Hindu. He is a practitioner of all three and believes this is fine for him. When his family decides to move to Canada, they board a boat along with some of the zoo animals who are going to be going to zoos in America. But the boat sinks and Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan, and large tiger known as Richard Parker. He has to figure out how to survive until rescue, but with the wild animals aboard too, the odds are against him.

Since Pi is the main focus of the novel, I expected to like him more. But I found him kind of annoying and really wasn’t that sympathetic to his plight. In fact, I was rooting more for the tiger and the zebra than I was for Pi. The tiger was definitely the best character of the novel. In its wildness it was interesting, and the concept of it on the lifeboat was unique.

The whole book moved very slowly. There was a lot of intro information in the beginning that could have been skipped straight through. Sure it probably helped explain Pi’s character, but it just seemed to stretch forever with no real added value. The part on the lifeboat also moved slowly and I got tired of the details of the sun and salt and what he had to eat. Granted there wasn’t a whole ton of action to be had in a lifeboat, but describing the minute just made it that more excruciating. I also wasn’t fond of the way Martel did the end, instead of letting the reader make the connections of figure out what the story meant, he pretty much just handed it to us and told us to choose which version we like better. Which is kind of a cop out to me. I know must of this sounds terrible and you’re probably wondering why I rated the book as high as three stars. Well, when he’s not waxing on and on with detail, the writing actually is very good. Its clear, precise, and somewhat lyrical and I wouldn’t mind reading other books by the author if they didn’t move so slowly. The concept of the book too was exciting.

I do have to comment on this author’s boast in the foreward that says the story contained within this book can turn people to religion. I did not find it so, in fact I skipped over the parts on religion as I found them irrelevant to the story as a whole. I did like that this book was based on a true story (according to the author’s foreward) as that made it a little more exciting. But its still a heavy boast to claim that this story will lead people to God.

Not the great piece of literature I was expecting but not worth throwing in the trash heap either. I can see why different people would enjoy this book, it just wasn’t for me.

Life of Pi
Copyright 2001
319 pages

Review by M. Reynard 2011

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