on 11 January 2010
`The Life of Pi' by Mantal is an exquisite tale about the exploration of different cultures, ideologies and influences, and the effect they have on the protagonist, Pi. This opening of the novel lays down the basis of the storyline, and appears to be mundane, however the tale unfolds to be gripping and thought provoking. As a teenager, Pi has many influences in his life, his mother who encourages discovering new ideas, particularly through literature. He also acquires a vast knowledge of animals, through his father, who is the proprietor of the zoo. The novel draws together many different elements of life, ranging from spiritual to technical elements, particularly as Pi is unable to decide on one religion, following Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. Pi's family move to Canada, due to his father disagreeing with the political views of India's Prime Minister and on the voyage, the boat sinks, which results in Pi being shipwrecked for 227 days before recovered. He was shipwrecked with an orang-utan , a zebra, a hyena and a tiger, `Richard Parker'. All of the animals besides Richard Parker are eaten, and Pi tames him. The fast paced nature of the story combined with the poetic style of language makes for a hugely vivid story, allowing the imagination of the readers to be pushed to the limits.
The originality and the powerful component of fantasy suggests why, when Pi recounts his story to those who recovered him much preferred his story with the animals, rather than the version with the exchanging of animals for human characters. It is clear why `The Life of Pi' won the `Mann - Booker Award' as Mantal combines life, death, religion and imagination to create an beautiful tale.
Life of Pi was, for me, a delight throughout. The first portion of the book seems to have garnered criticism in some corners but I found it to be a gentle and drily witty look at the way the world works. It provides the grounding for what follows, including the religious journey the book takes. Bearing in mind that I'm atheistic, I didn't feel like I was being preached to at any point in time. What's important here is that Yann Martel doesn't ram anything down the reader's throats. Pi relates all the events that occur to zoology and / or religion but the reader is always allowed to make their own judgement as well.
The story really picks up post-shipwreck and has some lovely twists and turns along the way. It's a paean to the survival instincts of the human spirit told through a series of increasingly bizarre and imaginative anecdotes. Wonderfully, everything is thrown askew at the end with a marvellous plot twist that leaves the reader considering the book long after they have finished it.
I read through Life of Pi in a little over two days; it was both enthralling and captivating and is that rare thing in modern art and literature - a positive and hopeful comment on the nature of the human being.
on 23 June 2003
Life of Pi stands with Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude as the most surprising and inventive book I have ever read. The description I read of the book said simply that it was the tale of a boy marooned on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific with only a zebra, orangutan, hyena and tiger for company. I was prepared for a fantasy with talking animals who help Pi throughout an adventure until they inevitably wash up on the shore. What I didn't expect it to be was a savagely brutal tale of survival teeming with blood, viscera, fear, despair and the very real teeth and claws of a 450 pound Bengal tiger. What I also didn't expect it to be was a beautiful, moving, heartfelt, loving exploration of loss, determination, belief and spirituality. That it can be both these descriptions at the same time tells you something of the power of this work of art. Life of Pi will be to some people a cracking adventure story, to some a philosophical treatise on the nature of belief and religion and to some a dizzying and confusing mix of the real, the assumed and the fantasy. To me it was quite simply astounding. The realisation of the point the narrator makes to the Japanese investigators at the end made me laugh and cry at the same time and for the first time in ages I felt a tug at my soul towards a higher power. Everyone in the world should read this book and after the last word, close it, take a deep breath and come out changed.
on 13 December 2011
A must read! Winner of `The Man Booker prize 2002,' The Life of Pi.
This loveable fiction book has a unique plot, full of surprises, based upon the main character Piscine (Pi), a young Indian boy living in Pondicherry, India. We get an insight on his background and childhood growing up surrounded by zoo life. As he enters his teen years, Pi searches for religion and God.
The first part of the story focuses on Pi's life growing up, certain points from his childhood that he should remember forever. We meet him here as a young boy, as he enters the second part of the book, the journey across the pacific ocean, we see him become a man.
The book refers to clever situations with the animals from the zoo and makes you think about them in a genius and different way. With his dad being a zoo-keeper, Pi spends a lot of time there, all the time learning about the animals, their behaviours, how to approach them, how they want to live etc. Which then leads to his survival later on in the book. It brings religion into the plot and leads to a debate, is life better with God in it? If so which one? Should we choose just one God? Or are a combination of Gods the best outcome?
With a sailing over to Canada, for a fresh start, a new life, their boat sinks which leads to Pi being stranded on a lifeboat with many animals including a Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker, an injured zebra, a hyena and an orang-utan. 227 days later, they find land, but what is interesting is what happened on the lifeboat? It uses your imagination to challenge what's possible and what's magical.
It faces a dilemma through belief. What Pi goes through on the boat and with the murder of his mother, he struggles with the concept of belief and of God.
The writing style of this book is outstanding. With short chapters it's an easy read. Yann Martel writes the book in a way that confuses you to begin with, in the first part, until your grasp what is going on. He is recollecting from Pi's past and then talks about his life now. The second part of the book is sad but thrilling, with unexpected twists and turns throughout.
The ending of this book makes you think even more. Once you have finished the book, you will definitely want to read it again but will look at it in a different way. Your understanding of man and of animals will definitely grow, and so will the connection between them. The big question is, will you believe the story?
on 5 January 2009
Life of Pi is the most adventurous and challenging book I have ever set eyes upon. Each chapter offering the reader a chance to explore and take a glimpse into the life of Piscine Patel a sixteen year old Indian boy. Many journeys are illustrated and captured with great emotion, from Pi's curiosity to explore all religions, to his life as a Zookeepers son, to the most extreme of being stranded on a lifeboat adrift at sea for 227 days with only the companionship of Richard Parker a great and furious Royal Bengal tiger.
Pi Patel's journey of survival, determination and sheer courage begin on July 2nd,1977. Where the cargo ship `Tsimtsum' carrying Pi and his family to a new lease of life sinks, leaving Pi only sole survivor fighting the wild and untrained pacific ocean alone, this is not the worst of his fears as aboard the lifeboat he comes in contact with a hyena, a zebra, and orang-utan and Richard Parker the 450 pound Bengal tiger.
At this very point, the reader follows and extraordinary journey that will test the potential alpha male, will question the belief of a vegetarian, will test the will power against the horrendous weather and everyday teaching a new skill in which will be adapted to this nauseating expedition.
In this novel Yann Martel allows the reader to explore deep imagination throughout this tense journey, as the most outrageous scenario is put into context in a manner in which the unbelievable could that in fact be credible. This harrowing adventure for Pi ends on February 14th, 1978 but this is not the end for the reader as Yann Martel challenges the reader with one final twist leaving great curiosity and challenging you to believe what you thought you knew and understood to be the Life of Pi.
on 4 January 2009
The book begins with a child, called Pi, who has been brought up in India at his fathers zoo. From the introduction of this character we learn of his want for knowledge and his questionable nature of the world around him.
Yann Martell claims his novel is "a story to make you believe in God". Pi slowly starts to have faith in three religions; Christianity, Hinduism and Muslim. He claims this is because he "loves God". As an agnostic, I found it compelling that this young boy had so much belief in God, that he felt the need to practice three religions. It seemed so charming that three conflicting religions can be united in the wild imagination of a child. I especially enjoyed Martel's clever use of depicting ideas from each religion, for example he picks up on the use of capital letters in Christianity, when Pi notes "since Christians are so fond of capital letters, a Story" (pg 53).
His father decides to sell the zoo and travel to Canada for a new life. In the second part of this fictitious novel Martel throws Pi into a whirl wind of surrealism leaving Pi on a lifeboat with no other human life. His only company are the only surviving animals from his fathers zoo; a Tiger, an Orang-utan, a Zebra and a Hyena. The journey for Pi to survive is ever present to the reader throughout.
During the book it is clear to the reader that Pi has an overactive imagination, although Pi's time on the boat with the animals causes the reader to question, has he created the animals in his mind or are they real? The line between realism and surrealism is clearly faint in this novel and creates curious questions for the reader.
on 4 July 2013
Smothered in praise, winner of the Booker, successful film adaptation... two of those things are ill portents almost anywhere. But the Booker? Come on.
Life of Pi - I'll spare you the plot, where it exists - does indeed begin like a printout of Wikipedia, with some inelegant and tedious listing of thenceforward irrelevant information about zoos. There is a sprinkle of pages that read like a primary school comprehension exercise on religion. There is - oooh, a shipwreck!
Maybe now it gets interesting.
Wait - wait -
Over a hundred pages in, the book picks up a little and then dies on its *rse again. The lifeboat/survivor/tiger 'thing' is an intriguing idea, which is no doubt why it's the image everyone knows about Life of Pi, but Martel fails to lift it above the pedestrian. The dullness of his prose, in a generous mood, may be attributable to the not-quite-first-person voice, but I fear it's worse than that, as the passages in other voices are just as clumsily delivered and uninspiringly drawn out. For some reason Martel feels the need to explain everything he writes, often multiple times. For some reason there is no spark at all to the language. For some reason there is no life to the story. For some reason it won twenty grand and all the critics are clearly touching themselves over it, or at least what they were paid to say nice things for the jacket. Well, stodgy and mildly imbecilic style can be glossed over in one's memory of a book if the meaning of it rings out like a sonorous bell in thick weather, but alas, Life of Pi is less a bell than a clapped-out tambourine with a bust skin and none of those tinkly bits. There is either a bewildering profusion of symbolic resonance here (if you're that way inclined) or a total lack of it. Forgetting all that crud about "a story that will make you believe in God", which it doesn't, the only part of this book that comes close to having any meaningful import is a small section of the last part - probably a couple of pages. Without 'spoiling' (if that is possible) the ending, it calls into question the story we have read. I mean, an intelligent reader would do that anyway. Martel hands us the most obvious of our own questions on a plate, saying "look at how clever my book is, it makes you question things and think about God!" Well, no. It makes me question why I bothered, and it makes me wonder why it's so widely praised, and it makes me wonder at the cynical commercialism and bandwaggoning of the media, that they should raise a book as frustrating and turgid as this to some kind of pedestal of enforced worthiness.
TL;DR: go read Swift's Gulliver's Travels, or Voltaire's Candide. Go read Eco's The Island of the Day Before. Go read something better, anything, but don't waste time on this. By all means watch the film and go "oooh" and "aaah" at the pretty things, but unless you're a glutton for childishly bad writing with no apparent value, leave the book on the shelf and count yourself lucky you're not the one writing this awful review.
Two stars. Because it would be trite, not to mention over-generous, to give it 3.14. And because there is at the core of the narrative an intriguing, if appallingly delivered and terribly developed, basic concept. And I have, shockingly, read worse.
on 1 October 2006
I feel I had to write a review on this novel, to offer advice which can alter your reading experience of this novel. Stick with it!
People with a short attention span will suffer for the first 93 pages, where we are 'treated' to a history of the events of Piscines life, and his philosophies, generally shaped by a devotion to religion, and not just the one. He also babbles on about his zoo, which, for me, made me give up reading this on the first attempt.
It is only when we get to the meat of the story that this book comes to life. We are treated, essentially, to a fellow on a life raft with a hyena, and oragutang, a zebra and a bengal tiger. As one can predict, these numbers are whittled down. Then we have a tale of survival, but more than that, when a desperate desire for comparison drives him to befriend said tiger, we begin to see the point of the first 100 pages.
I must admit, there are some bizarre scenes. For instance, Pi goes blind, and then finds there is someone else to chat to in the boat, who tries to murder him, and then of course, we have the incident of the living green island which I actually emjoyed.
In short, this is a survival novel, not quite in the same vein as Robinson Crusoe, but with many interesting twists. It is a commentary on religion and philosophy, and friendship in many ways. The tale is vivid after the initial disappointment, and told wonderfully. It's not often I praise a novel, but when I do, it is deserved.
on 26 March 2015
I tried with all my might to finish but I couldn't.
The book opens beautifully, with a bit of background info, beautiful quotes and imagery. Unfortunatly after 5 or 6 chapters this dies and your left with a rambling story ( if it can be called one) of faith and religion. As a former RE teacher, I found it completly unbelieveable , frustrating, boring, tedious, heavy and without substance.
Really annoyed I wasted 3 nights trying to finish this. Lucky it was a gift so I didnt waste a cent.
on 7 September 2009
A beautifully written shaggy-dog story in which a religiously-minded Indian teenager from a zoo keeping family has an fateful sea accident leaving him alone on a small lifeboat with only a large Bengal tiger for company. Most of the tall tale focuses on the rather exciting battle for survival over many months and adventures with his killer companion. A charming opening part explains how the boy - Pi (short for Piscine, of course) - came to be shipwrecked and a sequel maybe challenges the very veracity of the story. The key is in the engaging style of writing though, one part magic realism and two parts hyper-realism. The saga unfolds in breathtakingly poetic detail, at once sensual, spiritual and scientific. The tensions between the rational and the religious continuously bubble up and the fable-like format opens the book up to all sorts of potential interpretation as a philosophy, metaphor or allegory. You simply can enjoy it as a boy's own adventure, though, so authentically and intricately described it almost seems true. Rightly claimed as a modern classic almost immediately after publication.