Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Publisher's Summary
Pi Patel has been raised in a zoo in India. When his father decides to move the family to Canada and sell the animals to American zoos, everyone boards a Japanese cargo ship. The ship sinks, and 16-year-old Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra with a broken leg, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger.
Soon it's just Pi, the tiger, and the vast Pacific Ocean - for 227 days. Pi's fear, knowledge, and cunning keep him alive until they reach the coast of Mexico, where the tiger disappears into the jungle. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story, so he tells a second one - more conventional, less fantastic. But is it more true?
A realistic, rousing adventure and meta-tale of survival, Life of Pi explores the redemptive power of storytelling and the transformative nature of fiction. It's a story, as one character claims, to "make you believe in God."


Life of Pi appears on Audible's 'Essential Novels' list. From Audible Editors:
 If you've never been lost in the middle of the ocean, on a small boat filled with wild animals, you have missed a great adventure. Luckily, you have a chance to be transported to that terrifying and wondrous trip through the magic of Martell's writing and Woodman's narration. Whether you are in the car, at the gym, or walking the dog as you listen, you'll begin to feel the rock of the waves against your boat and feel the heat of a tiger's breath on your neck. —Beth Anderson

I should have read Life of Pi years ago, I'd crossed paths with a copy back in 2005 (thereabouts, it was in paperback edition by then). It'd come highly recommended to me and I passed on the book loan because I didn't have time to sit down and read it. My loss.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of those novels that is so different from everything else you've ever read. Life of Pi is moving (heartbreakingly so) and inspiring. Boy survives ocean, lonelyness, starvation and life with a predator all on a life raft barely the size of a minivan. We know from the publisher's summary where the novel goes and I wondered: 'How can an author possibly keep a novel about a solo journey on a lift raft with a tiger interesting and fresh for 400 pages (or 11.5 hours)'? Yann Martel is just such a genius - there was not a moment throughout the entire eleven and a half hours that I ever wished the story would move along. Readers of the Life of Pi can't give up on the story because Pi won't give up on his destiny - even in the face of despair with the odds stacked against him.

Certainly not a spoiler, we know at the beginning of the novel that Piscine (Pi) survives his ordeal on the lift raft as Pi's biographer begins to prepare Pi's story. There are some voice changes between Pi's background - life at a Zoo, Pi's multi-faceted faith in God and gods: We're introduced to Pi as a Hindu, a Catholic, a Muslim and a Jew. We hear from the biographer meeting Pi's Canadian family: a wife and a son. There was a moment (or a few moments) where I wasn't sure I wanted to listen to Pi's story as told through the narrator, the voice changes however we hear Pi's story in his own words. Pi's story unfolds brilliantly - the length and struggle of his journey, the loss of his family, the sinking of the cargo ship, loneliness at sea and the critical decision Pi makes to save Richard Parker. Saving Richard Parker is a sacrifice and a hardship, but ultimately it is the tiger who saves Piscine - not in a fictional happy ending way, but it's best not to go into spoilers.

Richard Parker is a 450 pound Bengal tiger. Picture a man-eater and a man (boy) aboard a life-raft in the middle of the ocean  with limited survival supplies. Piscine (Pi) a young Indian boy, a vegetarian, a zoo keeper's son is of course intimately familiar with the dangers of big cats a critical lesson taught early and harshly.

The narration of Life of Pi by Jeff Woodman is absolutely superb - one of the best narrations I've ever listened to. Pi in Mr Woodman's voice is eloquent and honest, a key component facilitating willing suspension of disbelief. The listener (reader) is easily transported to the life raft with Pi and Richard Parker.

Life of Pi was written by Yann Martel and narrated by Jeff Woodman. Life of Pi was published by High Bridge Audio. Life of Pi was released in hardcover and audiobook format on 4/25/2003 and has a runtime of 11 hours 38 minutes.

Good Reads User "Eva" wrote a spectacular review of Life of Pi in her own words:
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/9230871

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