Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Nook - Life of Pi

Life of Pi written by Yann Martel.

Wow!  I just finished reading this book and it is amazing.  I loved it!  It's smart, profound, witty, surprising.  It's the kind of book you think about long after you've set it down.  It's the kind of book that makes you want to re-read it immediately.  It's the kind of book that turns your reading experience upside down.  It's the kind of book that is open to many interpretations.  It's the kind of book that makes you grateful for life & what you may have in life.  It's the kind of book that makes you question everything.'s that good.

Please don't read anything about this book, if you are unfamiliar with it.  I will try to reveal nothing in my write up.  I think this one is best approached as a clean slate.  Allow yourself to be placed on the journey by the author.  The character's surprises will be your surprises.  His grief, hardships, joy and experiences will be yours, too.

I will tell you as much as is written on the back cover.  Pi Patel is a 16 year old boy who is the only survivor of a cargo ship sinking in the Pacific Ocean.  He is on a lifeboat with a 450 pound Bengal tiger (his family owned a zoo in Ponticherry, India and were in the process of moving to Canada when the ship sank).  That's all the information about the story I will give!

But I will tell you that Pi is an incredible narrator.  He is genuine, warm and truthful.  He is humble.  His ordeal at sea is an engrossing read and you will feel that you are right there with him.  I read my book on CD and the reader is also excellent.  When Pi says he can't go on talking about another character, it's too hard for him, the narrator on the CD audibly tears up.  I'm sure reading the paper version of the book is very satisfying, but I believe that listening to it on CD really enhanced the overall experience for me.  Pi is right there in the room with you - I had to set my knitting down on several occasions to give him my full attention.

One thing I would like to mention is that there are a couple of disturbing scenes.  So if you've got little ones, don't listen to the book on CD around them!  As I knew nothing about the book going in, I was caught off guard by these scenes, but they are integral to the story.

What I've written here really doesn't do the novel justice.  In fact, I've painted a picture of doom and gloom.  But it's really the opposite - Pi is such a personable character who has a wonderful way of looking and things and describing things, you can't help but connect with him.  To paraphrase one scene, he describes the sharks that regularly visit his raft as curmudgeonly old friends who wouldn't admit they liked him even though they always came around to visit.  It's a real testament to Yann Martel's talent as a writer that I love Pi so much - he is truly alive, as if he's really the one telling the story.  Martel is out of the scene all together.

There is one more thing I want to add & I hesitate to do so because it is really my only critique of the novel: it starts out slow.  I have had my copy of the book from the library for 2 or 3 months now because I just couldn't get into the story.  Give it time & stick with it.  The beginning chapters are quite mundane (even though we are getting to know Pi and his life and views) but perhaps that's the point: just when things seem pretty boring in life, a tragic event can happen to turn our world upside down.  And what we wouldn't give to be back in our normal houses and our normal lives, when we are lost at sea.


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