For an online film-class I’m currently taking, we have been assigned to watch the movie Life of Pi. However, this movie is based on the book, Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I make it an unbreakable personal law to never, ever, under any circumstances, watch a movie before reading it’s book. So on a recent 17-hour road-trip from Toronto, Canada to Kansas City, Missouri, I read Life of Pi. My Mom had previously read it, but she wanted me to read it aloud to her to experience it a second time. Some parts made us laugh out loud, and some made us cringe with horror. But overall, we enjoyed reading the book together, and we had fun discussing the plot afterwards.
An Indian boy, a zebra with a broken leg, an orangutan, a hyena, and a Bengal tiger. What could these things possibly have in common? Well for one thing, they are all stranded in a lifeboat on the Pacific Ocean, and they are the center of Life of Pi.
“A real adventure: brutal, tender, expressive, dramatic, and disarmingly funny . . . . It is difficult to stop reading when the pages run out.” – San Francisco Chronicle
I couldn’t agree more. Life of Pi has all the elements a good story should – suspense, surprise, drama, action, humor, and much more. In the story, an Indian boy named Pi is the victim of a shipwreck, and must survive on a lifeboat with several dangerous and wild animals. How does he survive? What happens to the animals? How long are they on the boat? Do they get rescued? The book will answer these questions and more, but will leave you dumbfounded at the unpredictable ending.
Things I liked:
Character development – Pi, the main character, is constructed very well. The first 100 pages or so really dive deep into his childhood, family life, and his interpretation of religion and the world. His name also carries a hilarious story with it, which he shares openly with the readers. By the time Part One is over, you feel like you’ve made a connection with him, and know him on a personal level.
Pi’s Childhood – Part One of the book talks a lot about how and where he grew up. His father was a zookeeper, and Pi and his family lived inside the zoo. The book is written in the first-person past, so Pi is narrating his life after his experience is over. He spends a lot of time talking about his family, life inside the zoo, and his school days. I found this particularly interesting to read his thoughts on animals, religion, and life. It is very thought-provoking, to say the least.
The Writing – I absolutely loved the writing style of the author. He added just the right amount of humor, description, and bluntness to paint a clear picture in your mind throughout the entire story. For instance, there is a humorous yet intense description of the hyena, and Pi is very straightforward about things he had to do on the lifeboat in order to survive. The story really sucked me in, and this experience is hopefully the closest I’ll ever get to dangerous wildlife on a lifeboat.
The Setting – The majority of the book is in one place – a life boat on the Pacific Ocean. Not much changes, other than the weather, but for the most part even that stays the same. You’d think it would get very boring very fast, but it doesn’t. Sure, there are some parts where things are a little slow, but there’s also a lot to be said. From the time he lands on the lifeboat, Pi’s entire focus is on survival. He has to build a new lifestyle. He has to maneuver the animals so he won’t be attacked. He has to provide for himself. He has to eat, drink, sleep, fend off predators, protect himself from the scorching heat, and much more. There’s quite a lot of action on the lifeboat, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next.
The Ending – Lets just say the ending has a completely unexpected twist . . . It leaves you thinking long after the pages run out.
Things I disliked:
The Ending – To completely contradict what I just said, I also hated the ending. Like I said, it leaves you thinking long after the pages run out!
The Middle – There was a series of pages in the middle of the book that were just a little slow for me. However, I believe this was to further enforce Pi’s situation on the lifeboat. That was the only part I felt slightly bored, because the beginning, most of the middle, and the end are all absolutely incredible.
I am giving Life of Pi a 4.5 out of 5 stars. The reason I can’t push it to a 5 is because of the reasons I mentioned in earlier – I found myself bored in certain spots throughout the book. However, the reason I have such a high rating is because while writing this, I had a hard time thinking of other things I didn’t like!
Life of Pi is a dramatic book packed with action, danger and suspense. While it can be gruesome, descriptive and depressing at times, it makes you feel a variety of emotions throughout. Happiness, sadness, laughter, tears, pity, and the “why on earth would you do that!?” feeling. It’s also a book that is best shared with a friend or family member, because the last page will certainly leave you with a “What just happened!?” feeling. You will have the overwhelming urge to discuss the twisted ending with someone. My Mom and I were still talking about the ending days later, even though I was paying for reading an entire book aloud at once with a hoarse voice and scratchy throat.
Overall, this book is very thought-provoking and extremely well-written, and makes for an incredible story that you can’t put down. If you want to go on a journey of strength, endurance, and the will to keep fighting in difficult circumstances, Life of Pi is the perfect book for you.