Life of Pi
London, Walker, 2010, 319p
I feel like I am cheating slightly. I have been ill for the last few days, so I am drawing on my past reading experience to write this review. My apologies, but a review of this excellent novel had to be written eventually.
I love reading because I love discovering new things. I love to be able to escape the everyday and indulge in a different world or another life. I am a dreamer. And this novel allowed me to dream.
The Life of Pi is the story of a boy who loses his family in a shipwreck, and ends up drifting across the ocean on a small life boat. The twist? His only companion is a Bengal tiger. It is a really unusual story that sucks you right in. I found myself completely suspending my disbelief and allowing this tale to drown me.
It is visually incredible - Martel takes you into a world you never knew existed. The first section of the novel, in which the protagonist, Piscine, describes his home and upbringing in India, is beautiful and engaging. Martel is detailed and thorough, and you learn more about zoology than you ever thought you would be interested in.
Then, Martel takes you on the voyage over the seas, with the Bengal tiger and the teenage boy. I don't believe any author has created such an unique and invigorating world. You never question the reality of Pi's story - not until he makes you question it at the end. But I won't ruin it for you.
I have a slight problem with the fact that this book has been so strongly associated with religion - in fact, I heard about it through my parent's church book club, and initially dismissed it for this reason. The authors note states that this story "will make me believe in God", but I feel differently. This novel made me believe in the power of the written word. Language, description, imagination - they are the forces at work here.
I am torn over the upcoming film adaptation of The Life of Pi, as I am with most film adaptations. This novel spoke volumes to me - it inspired my imagination to flourish. I am not convinced that a film can do this in the same way a novel can... but equally, I am open to see what the directors have done with Martel's story.