Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (1/81)

Category: Winners of the Man Booker Prize - Life of Pi won in 2002

First book of the New Year! This is a wonderful book that I finished in three days. I was honestly not expecting it to affect me as much as it did, although when it was given to me, or course I knew that it had been very well received in general. I was a little bit put-off by the premise of it: sixteen-year-old Pi Patel is trapped in a lifeboat crossing the Pacific Ocean with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. But this book is about so much more than that.
The fact that the first third of the book has nothing to do with being stranded out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger is something that I think needs to be mentioned. Everything I've read about this book gives you the idea that that is the only important part of the plot. But the whole first part of Life of Pi is about Pi's life and family before the accident that strands him on the lifeboat. Pi's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel, Piscine Molitor being the name of a pool in Paris. Pi's family has never been to Paris. The fact of Pi's full name is just one of the ways that Martel does an incredible job characterizing Pi and his family. Pi himself chooses his nickname, in full awareness of the fact that it is a Greek letter that is used in mathematics. With this nickname he takes control over his life by taking control of the use of his name. Pi's father runs the zoo in their formerly French town, Pondicherry, in India. It is the 1970's, and Pi's father is increasingly concerned with the way his country is going. So he decides to pack up and move his family to Canada. Along with his family, he has made arrangements for the sale of most of the animals in the zoo, who will be coming along on the trip with them, at least as they cross the ocean.
I really can't say enough about what a wonderful story this is. Martel is an amazing storyteller, one who can make the simplest details profound, and who can make you feel like you are a part of his story. When reading this book, it is important to pay attention to how he is telling the story, as well as what he is saying. The chapter breakdown alone is something that leads you to think more about what it means to tell a story. This truly is a beautiful book that I expect is only more enjoyable the more times you read it.

1 comment:

Irish said...

This book suprised me as well ... I loved it :)