Monday, 7 January 2013

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

After seeing the trailer for the recent film adaptation of this, I decided I would rather read the book first. I was unsure whether or not this was a novel I would like but I was actually pleasantly surprised.

The title character Piscine Molitor Patel, or Pi, is born and raised in India where he lives at the family zoo. The first part of the book is where Pi reminisces about his education, his life at the zoo and his explorations of different religions; all of which are the underpinnings of his character. His life is then changed forever when his father sells their land and moves what is left of the zoo to Canada. Unfortunately, the family does not complete the move, as the Japanese cargo ship carrying them and all of the animals is caught in a storm and capsizes.

Only Pi survives, escaping death in a lifeboat along with a hyena, a zebra, an orang-utan and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi lasts 227 days in his lifeboat by utilising the on-board supplies, learning to fish in the open ocean and adapting to live with an adult tiger. Part way through his journey at sea, Pi comes across a strange algae island inhabited by meerkats but soon returns to the ocean when he learns the island’s secret.

After his arduous ordeal at sea, Pi washes up in Mexico, where Japanese officials come to visit him to try and ascertain what happened to the ill-fated cargo ship. Pi tells them his extraordinary story which the officials are dubious to believe. So he tells them a second story of savage human brutality, changing animal characters for human ones. It is still unclear which of the stories is true as there is no tangible proof for either, so it is up to the officials and also the reader to come to their own conclusions. Unexpectedly gruesome in parts this is a wildly unique and imaginative tale. Colourful and philosophical, Life of Pi is a fantastical amalgamation of zoology and religion skilfully encapsulated in a lifeboat. 

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