Synopsis: One boy, one boat, one tiger . . .
After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan? and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.
Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: Cannongate Books
With the coming of the film, this booked jumped up to number one my ‘to read’ list; I was determined to finish it before watching the glamourised spin Hollywood would put on it.
This Man Booker prize-winning novel tells a tale of a young boy from India, Pi, who is left adrift in the Pacific sharing a lifeboat with a tiger that used to reside in his father’s zoo. But once you finish the book, you might conclude that this was not, in fact, what the book was about at all. Depending on your outlook, your perception, and your philosophical bent, the book will mean something different to your best friend than it will to you.
By about half way I was sure the story was real, regardless of the fact I knew it was a fiction novel. Martel’s depiction of India and events following the sinking of the Japanese freighter was so effortless and natural that I was left wondering whether it could have happened. I wanted to believe the story so much so that the end initially annoyed me. I also felt some events in ‘Part 3’ were too far-fetched, even to someone used to reading fantasy.
Yet as I write this review, I can’t help but think of a quote from the book:
‘The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?’
It is how this book is understood, how it is perceived that makes it what it is. To some it is a adventure story about being lost at sea with a Bengali tiger; to others, it may be a pretty fable, or a story that will make you ‘believe in God’.
Regardless of how you end up understanding the story, this is definitely one that must be read. At the very least, it is a beautiful tale of a young boy’s determination and survival, and at the most it is a life-altering tale of human nature.
I’ll end with some of my favourite quotes from the book:
‘Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.’
‘Doubt is useful for a while … But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.’
‘All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways.’
‘The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.’
‘Life is a peephole, a single tiny entry onto a vastness.’