Sunday, October 28, 2007

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This book is the winner of the 2002 Booker prize, and I read it for two challenges. It is the first book in the Canadian authors challenge and my fifth book in the Reading Awards Challenge.

Briefly, Pi is Piscine Patel (nicknamed Pi) who, at the age of 16, is on a boat immigrating with his family from India to Canada when the boat unexpectedly sinks. The majority of the story is told from Pi's point of view as he becomes the lone survivor during months at sea in a rescue lifeboat.

STRENGTHS OF LIFE OF PI: This is not normally the type of book I'd choose to read. I am not into adventure/survival stories, but Martel's writing was able to hold my attention throughout the book. It is always hard, I think, for a writer to keep the reader's interest when there is only a single character involved in the action. I found Pi's story fascinating, and I was rooting for him throughout the story. Martel was also able to create wonderful word pictures so you'd truly see or feel what that boat was like for Pi. I truly felt how wet he was, and how hungry, at various times in the story.

WEAKNESSES OF LIFE OF PI: SPOILER ALERT - don't read this paragraph if you don't want to know how the book ends. With that said, I am not sure I liked the ending. I've read other blogs where people have referred to the book's ending, and I see what they meant. Was he really in the boat the whole time with the tiger or was most of the book his deluded thinking? Was the interview at the end the true story? I almost wish Martel had ended the book when Pi reached Mexico and Richard Parker, the tiger, ran off into the jungle. That was a very redemptive moment for me. The interview in the third section of the book that leads the reader to doubt Pi's entire story feels a bit like a slap in the face, almost like an elaborate joke on the reader. I don't like it when authors trick the reader. It feels like a violated trust. I really wanted to believe that he survived with the tiger, and not that there were others in the boat, at first, and that they resorted to cannibalism to survive. The symbolism of the animals, in retrospect, seems heavy-handed. SPOILER ALERT ENDED!

Overall, did I like the book? I'm ambivalent. I really enjoyed the writing, but I am having difficulty with the ending. Is it thought-provoking? Absolutely. Was it worth my reading time? I think so. I'd love to know what you thought, especially about the ending!


Nyssaneala said...

I liked this book when I read it but I'm still up in the air about the ending. And I read it at least 3 years ago!

John Mutford said...

The ending is what I liked most! I liked what it says about beliefs- sometimes it's just more fun to believe the more wild stories, despite being given more logical explanations. I thought it tied in nicely with all the religion talk at the beginning of the book.

Framed said...

I really liked this book. And the ending made me laugh. It gave you a choice of what ending you wanted to go with. I choose the boy vs the tiger.

BookGal said...

Nyssaneala - I agree. I'm still pondering the ending!

John - That's an excellent point. That's probably why I chose to believe the tiger story!

Framed - Me too!

Trish said...

Ambivalent seems like a good way to describe how I felt about this one as well. I loved the language and most of the story itself, but I felt that I got robbed at the end of the book.