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Customer Review

140 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life and How to Live It, 14 Oct. 2002
This review is from: Life of Pi (Hardcover)
At the time of writing, Life of Pi is on the shortlist for the Booker Prize, and by the time of you reading this, it has either won (hurrah) or lost (hurroo). Because of the three novels I've read from the shortlist, Life of Pi stands head and shoulders above the others for being entirely original, good-natured, sparky (unlike the sluggish, grounded others), and extremely moreish: it took me only two days to navigate its 320 pages. You can put it down but it's such enjoyable fun why would you want to?
The blurb is somewhat misleading, suggesting that Life of Pi is only about the travails of a boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger: in fact there are 100 pages before this main event. But the miracle is that even when restricted to one human character and a twenty-odd foot lifeboat, Martel is never boring, and never resorts to childish anthropormism with the animals either: Pi really does have to survive with a 450-pound Bengal tiger, hungry and uncartoonish and nearby.
Speaking of miracles, the narrator's pushy insistence throughout the book that it will "make you believe in God" is the only chunk of the novel I couldn't quite swallow. There's no godliness whatsoever - unless it's moving in mysteriously subtle ways or something and I'm just too much of an atheistic blockhead to see it - unless you count the instances of Pi praising God when something good happens to interrupt the terrible attrition of life on the lifeboat. And frankly who wouldn't hedge their bets a bit in such a situation? In fact, thinking of it, one particularly memorable section of the book - the island, a staggeringly inventive set piece which put me in mind of the land of the mulefa in Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass - indicates, if anything, evolution at work rather than Creation, and the narrator even makes respectful mention of Darwin.
However. This small gripe does nothing to detract from the fact that Life of Pi will have you grinning like a tiger for days. Prize-winner or not, if it doesn't become a classic in the next few years, I'll eat that carton of emergency rations. Well he won't be needing it will he?
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