Yann Martell, “Life of Pi”

Huge international best-seller and where was I when everybody was reading it? Avoiding it, because it seemed like one of those fantasy/allegory tales I just don’t get. Well, I wasn’t wrong. It’s really well done; intelligent, sympathetic, challenging in all the right ways. Just not my cup of tea.

Bengal tiger

Bengal tiger

Piscine Molitor Patel (self-nicknamed “Pi” for all-too-obvious reasons) is shipwrecked in the Pacific. Also orphaned. After 227 days in a lifeboat he lands in Mexico. Unbelievable hardship, tragedy, suffering. The story he tells about those 227 days involves, among other florid notions, his relationship with the 450-pound Bengal tiger with whom he shares the lifeboat. His need to dominate the tiger probably kept him alive. But was the tiger real, or… what?

A lot of the Big Themes are in play here: life, death, faith. Pi is multi-faithful: born a Hindu, he also adopts Christianity and Islam. It’s agnosticism has no sympathy with. “To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” There’s gentle humor, wonderful writing, excellent characterization. Pi always reads like a 16-year-old boy, for instance. I can see how good the book is, it just failed to move me.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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