Friday, November 27, 2009

Life Of Pi - Yann Martel

When sixteen-year-old Pi Patel finds himself stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with only a menacing 450-pound Bengal tiger for company, he quickly realizes that the only way he will survive is if he makes sure the tiger is more afraid of him than he is of it. Finding strength within himself, he draws upon all of his knowledge and cunning, battles for food and shelter, overcomes storms and disasters, and, in the end, makes a peace of sorts with both tiger and ocean.

With more than one million copies in print, Life of Pi has become a modern classic, combining grand story-telling with a profound exploration of ageless themes: faith and truth, fact and fiction, man versus nature, and innocence and experience. (Image from and summary from back of the book.)

My Review: Fascinating is the word I'd use to describe Pi's journey. Sad, powerful, awe-inspiring, disgusting, unbelievable: all of these adjectives would be accurate.

I'm still confused as to whether this story is true or not. Anyone care to enlighten me? If it is true, wow. Just, wow. If it's not, what an imagination!

My favorite aspects to this book were the religious musings, specifically in the beginning of the book, and the information about wild animals. Considering I'm not much of an animal person, this book didn't strike me the way it may some--except to say that the depictions of the violence between animals made me sick. The cruelty is more than my passive nature could bare at times. I was nauseous many times while reading. For that, I wanted to put the book down. I'm not sure I would have finished unless it hadn't been assigned as a book club pick. I'm glad I did finish, but I can assure you I won't be picking it up again. I don't mind thinking or conversing about it, but I'm not going to re-read it.

I also learned that I could not survive a ship wreck. The lengths he went to for survival are definitely past my capacity. I think I would have happily allowed that tiger to bat me around until I was able to leave such a miserable existence.

Besides the first section of the book with its religious musings, my favorite part would be the last section: the interview with the Japanese Ministry of Transport. I loved the translation of the side conversations, as well as Pi's outrageous outbursts and quite absurd hording of food. Too funny!

Rating: 4 stars--thought about giving it less, but I really enjoyed specific parts and I know I'll ponder on this story for a while, therefore I felt it deserved 4 stars.

In a phrase: Somewhat grotesque, although I can only imagine accurate, tale of survival from a ship wreck in the Pacific.


treen said...

Wikipedia says fiction. After reading the Wikipedia summary of the story (including all the spoilers), all I can say is ... EEWWWW! I think I'll be skipping this one!

martine said...

I am a little confused as to why anyone might think it was real, although the opening scenes of his early life make it seem as if it is going to be an ordinary 'adventure' story it is plainly a kind of allegory . I think a sign of how well it is written that you might believe the tale. A totally fabulous book.
thanks for sharing

Jocelyn said...

Spoiler alert. If you have not read Life of Pi, do not read this review.

Life of Pi is an allegory, therefore, Pi’s story is both true and made up. The allegory is about religion, the truth of Pi’s story depends on one’s own level of faith and acceptance of a higher being. Like the Japanese sailors, who cannot accept Pi’s story, many people deny a higher power because they cannot see it.
There are actually three levels within this story. 1) Pi’s story about his experience on the life raft and eventual return to civilization—the Richard Parker story. 2) The “truth” that he told the Japanese sailors; the tale without Richard Parker. 3) A message about faith and the saving power of religion—what religion, what God, and what the Savior gives to man.
Just as in life, these elements are very closely related, and mixed together, thus it is very hard to distinguish the truth, the facts, the reality of the story—purposefully all these elements are confused and mixed together because of the duality and doubt within everyone.
Here is the run down—Pi is Richard Parker. The trauma of watching his mother murdered pushed in him a desire to survive, despite the odds and the difficulty of his circumstances. The desire for survival awoke in him Richard Parker. Richard Parker allowed Pi to do things he was not normally able to do—essentially the bipolar nature of his existence on the life boat saved him and allowed him to escape within a tiger. Anything Pi did that was questionable to society was transferred to Richard Parker—allowing Pi to remain sane once he returned to civilization. Catch the symbolism? A Savior, such as Christianity’s Christ, takes our questionable acts, our sins, and allows us to return to purity.
Pi’s story sounds far fetched, just as the existence of God sounds far fetched to many, but as Pi asked in the end—if it makes no difference on the end result, and no one can prove otherwise, which story is better? The one with Richard Parker, or the soulless story with the cook and sailor? Obviously, the story with Richard Parker is better, going through life with faith and God is better. Religion provides so much more, it allows man some way of staying sane with all the bad man can do.
Just as Pi went to great lengths to explain his predicament, Man goes to great lengths to develop stories that explain our situation, our existence, and our trials—these stories are religion and God. It is up to us to decide if Pi’s story is true, and it is up to us to decide if God and religion are reality or merely creations of man. Again, as Pi related, can we prove otherwise, can we prove that Pi’s story is not real, can we disprove God? And truly, doesn’t an existence with God, with a savior, and with higher meaning make a better story?

Kari said...

I have to apologize for the lack of clarity on my part and explain why. I wasn't very clear and some of that is intentional and some isn't. I like to leave reviews somewhat vague because I DO want other people who haven't read the book to NOT be let down by having the story-line and message given away. But, I also need to be somewhat specific as to my reasons why I like or dislike a book.

My line about whether the book is true or not probably should have read: I'm still confused as to whether this story WAS BASED ON A true story or not--like a premise to build his allegory. Anyone care to enlighten me? If it was built upon a true story, then the creation although still fascinating isn't quite the daunting task to write as it would be if the author made up the whole story--a compliment to the author. That is my fault for not being clear in my question. But, the rest of the post was meant to leave the reader to find his own meaning and interpretation because that is the fun of reading the book. I did mention I liked the religious musings and that statement still stands.

I really enjoyed reading Jocelyn's comment discussing the allegory's meaning--there is much to be discussed and this isn't quite the forum to do so fluidly.

Thanks for all your thoughts.

Voni said...

I just discovered your site. Is there a good way to search for YA books (recommended list?) that I should purchase for my middle school media center? Thanks

MindySue said...

Hi Voni,
My name is Mindy and I'm the blog administrator for Reading for Sanity. I think that the best way to find our YA recommends list would be to check out our 5 Stars and 4 Stars lists (in the sidebar) and scroll down to the YA fiction section of the list. I find that the books in either of these sections are usually pretty good and even fantastic reads. You can also check out the "Our Favorite Books" lists (also in the sidebar)- the YA recommendations are clearly labeled, but you'll have to scroll down to each reviewers "favorites" list. There aren't too many posts (maybe 5) on that page, so it's completely doable. The final, and probably most time consuming option would be to scroll through the YA fiction label (sidebar) which will show you ALL the YA books we've reviewed (79) and their ratings.

I hope this helps. As for off the top of my head--No YA library is complete without:

The Giver - Lois Lowry
Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
The Uglies Series - Scott Westerfeld
The Hunger Games (and sequel Catching Fire) - Suzanne Collins
Harry Potter (duh) - JK Rowling
Twilight books 1-3 -Stephenie Meyer
The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
1984 - George Orwell
City of Ember (and the rest of the series) - Jeanne DuPrau
Enders Game - Orson Scott Card

Cindy said...

I read this book several years ago...but I LOVEd it!! I copied down quotes from all over its pages!! It was an exciting read!!


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