There are very few books that live up to their hype. ‘Life of Pi’ is one of them. Essentially its main character Pi (short for Piscine) is in such a desperate castaway situation that, if swapping tales with Robinson Crusoe, the latter would probably hang his head and admit that life on his island wasn’t so bad.
Instead of a well-natured native to keep him company while waiting for rescue in a faraway place, Pi finds himself accompanied by an orang-utan, a zebra, a male hyena and a massive tiger. In a boat. Lost in the Pacific.
How does this happen, you might ask? Well the animals, alongside Pi’s family and hundreds of other people were on a ship to Canada. Pi knows the animals because in India, his father owned the zoo that they lived in. Unfortunately this means that he knows what will inevitably happen (death, for him most likely).
Without giving anything too important away, I have to say that Martel’s writing makes Pi come alive in a way few characters do. It’s not just empathy associated with a well-rounded character. You are desperate with him, you wish for his survival, you hope that while the odds are stacked insurmountably against him, this small quirky boy who deserved this so little (not that I can think of anyone who does off-hand) will triumph against the beast.
Those who read to the end will have their hearts broken, even if just a little. It is beautiful.
“I was weeping because Richard Parker had left me so unceremoniously. What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell.”
“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, a jealous, posessive love that grabs at what it can.”
DISCLAIMER– I haven’t seen the film and I don’t know how faithful it is to the book.
This review is part of the 1000 books before 30 challenge, where I have tasked myself with reading the above number of books before the aforementioned birthday! Read more about why I decided to do this here.
Featured image: Creative commons photo courtesy of Tambako the Jaguar