Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Finally! A book that FORCED me to write about it.

Un-putdownable…..Thats how would you describe  a book that you find you can’t stop reading ,  because you cant wait to find out what happens next. Don’t you?

But what about a book that you are in a  hurry to finish,and finish it fast …..so that you can RE-READ IT!! Because you want to connect all the dots that the author has very masterfully left in the first part of the novel, with the edge-of-the-seat-adventure chronicled in the second half. Only then do you relish the various layers to the story.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel…..as soon as I finished it, I started re-reading it.

And as soon as I started re-reading it, ………I wanted to discuss it…

and so here I am, writing my first ever  book review. 🙂

A boy. A tiger. And the vast Pacific Ocean. This is a novel of such rare and wondrous storytelling that it may, as one of the characters claims, make you believe in God. Can a reader reasonably ask for anything more?

So reads the dust jacket of the novel

The ship in which 16-year-old Pi and his zookeeping family are to emigrate from India to Canada sinks, leaving him the sole human survivor in a lifeboat …… a reluctant Noah….. sharing his small lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. And just in case you miss the whole point, let me tell you that these are WILD ANIMALS!!!! They have been living in a zoo, but they are NOT domesticated! and now they are scared, sea sick, thirsty and HUNGRY!!!! Its a battle of survival for Pi….If the hyena or the Tiger doesn’t get him, the ruthless elements of nature will.

You know from the beginning that Pi will survive, but at times you wonder how he will overcome each challenge he faces. Pi is determined to survive the impossible. Faced with numerous physical dangers, his only real choice is whether to fight to live or to give up and die. Though he considers doing otherwise, Pi chooses to fight

“I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen every day.”

Yann Martel keeps the story of Pi’s long voyage moving at an interesting pace. .  He is, on first reading, weirdly digressive, preferring zoological lore to human information. The novel is full of stories about animals, all calculated to destroy our illusions about their love of freedom or their human-like attributes. If you find the book tedious at first, remeber, it all adds up in the end…when you play join the dots 🙂 This is a story within a story, within a story.

It shows in details gory enough to turn your stomach, the naked truth behind the concept of the survival of the fittest , what exactly does it mean to have to continually fight for your life in an hostile environment, and believe me, it is NOT palatable…literally as well as figuratively speaking. The most  amazing thing brought to our notice is the strength of the life force ….the survival instinct that spurs us to go on  fighting rather than surrendreing to the inevitable.

The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity – it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it…

The presence of a tiger on the same boat poses a danger to his life as none other could. And yet, the paradoxical truth is that the presence of the tiger on the same boat is the reason he survives. The  battle against this tiger is not only physical, but also psychological. He comes to realize that survival involves knowing when to assert himself and when to hold back, when to take the upper hand and when to yield to a power greater than himself.

Pi understands that his own survival depends on keeping his ferocious opponent alive and well —

”because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to the tiger.”

the book is especially good because the ending isn’t nice and tidy…It is a “Happy Ending” as the author himslf assures the readers at the begining of the second part ( and thank God he does!!!!)…… you have to decide for yourself what you want to think about Pi’s story…Ultimately, the riddle of Pi’s salvation is left to the reader to solve. It is a riddle well worth contemplating and one which may require a second reading.

The Life of Pi” will, at the very least, entertain through its sharp storytelling, but it can also help a reader examine how they see the world .The novel opens itself to varied interpretations and can be applied to larger philosophical, social and universal context. In a prescient moment at the beginning of his tale, Pi notes

“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.

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2 Responses to Life of Pi by Yann Martel

  1. sangeeta says:

    After reading the passage you posted earlier , i was already curious about the book …and hey how interesting it sounds !!!

    You say it is ‘the-edge-of-the-seat-adventure’ …… i saw a looongish review n still went through it in one breath…literally!!

    The fact that Pi is 16 yr old is very interesting i think…a fresh mind bubbling with the ‘madness’ mentioned in the last quote you highlighted …
    don’t you think humans are the only living beings who are loosing out on that certain measure of madness in their life !!!

    I must say that the review looks very crisp and refreshing … fueling the curiosity even more …

    • Amrita says:

      😀 I know it is rather too long. More of a analysis than a review. But I must add a caveat here….some of the details in the book are so graphic in description that I should have found them disgusting …strangely, they only managed to disturb. I wouldn’t recommend it as a “light reading” though.

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