Life of Pi by Yann Martel was a fascinating book that completely pulled me into the story after it finally got interesting. But it took a long time to get interesting.
The first 120 pages of the story is about a teenage Indian boy (dot, not feather) who believes completely in three main religions: Christianity (Catholic), Islam and Hinduism. Pi, the main character, grew up as a zookeeper’s son. The family sold the animals and closed the zoo to move to Canada. While on the journey from India to Canada, along with some of the animals, the ship sank. The story is put to paper at a later time by a writer based on interviews with Pi and others related to the events.
The next 280 pages is about the sinking of the ship and how Pi, and his lifeboat companion Richard Parker, survived for 227 days at sea. Richard Parker was a 450 pound Bengal Tiger. There were other companions on the lifeboat, but they either died, were killed or drowned before too many days had passed in the lifeboat.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Pi goes into a nine step process as to how you, the reader, should go about taming the wild animal (i.e., tiger, rhinoceros or wild boar) in the boat with you. It is funny in that I hope to never find myself in need of such information, but he describes it with the passion and factuality that any 16 year old would bring to something so serious.
As stated earlier, the book pulled me along when it finally got interesting. But that did not happen until after page 120 (in my edition of the book). The book is broken into three parts. If you take my second paragraph above as a summary of the first section of the book you can save yourself all the boring parts and not enjoy the book any less. But you are going to read it anyway, aren’t you? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
While I can’t say that it was the most thrilling or immersive book I have ever read, it was very hard to put down towards the end.
I have heard many good reviews of the book and have to agree that it is well written and will probably become a classic. But, like most classics, unless you struggle to get very far into the book, you will probably put it away disappointed that you didn’t see what everyone else saw in the work. If you are struggling to get into the book from the start just take my advice and skip to part two and prepare yourself for a great story.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel. Mariner Books. 2003. 326 pages (in the linked edition, mine was 401 pages).
3 thoughts on “Book Review: Life of Pi”
I purchased Life of Pi through the mail. I needed a fifth book for one of those mail order book clubs, and I had heard interesting things about it. It is undoubtedly a personal favorite. This book changed the way I look at the hardships that come in life. Reading Life of Pi prepared me for the back injury I suffered several months later.
What do you think about my assessment of the first part of the book? I am curious as to what others think about that.
I read mostly non-fiction books and do so because I am interested in information. In reading Life of Pi I was interested in the story about actually being on the boat and dealing with the Tiger. Therefore the whole “leading up” to, what to me was, the main story was wasted time.
Do I have a complete misunderstanding of what reading for pleasure means? I get pleasure from the non-fiction reading I do. Just getting to the information that I am looking for is enjoyable to me.
It’s now been almost three years since I first read the book. I remember the second part fairly well, but I only remember a couple of key things about the first part. I think Mr. Martel spent a lot of time establishing the character of Pi and making sure the reader identified with him. Perhaps it could have been done in fewer pages.
I imagine you’ll find that many readers of fiction are looking for a particular kind of information in what they read (for example: the philosophical aspects of a work). When reading this way there is undoubtedly a tendency to be bored with other parts of the work. Other readers, however, may be reading a fiction book solely to enjoy the way the words function together. Still other readers will espouse yet another reason for consuming fiction. There is no one correct way to read for pleasure.