Monday, March 28, 2011

Life of Pi

And so the first emerges from my Fiction Blitz:

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by TheMouseFiles on

What happens when you combine zoology, religion, survival, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, one sixteen-year-old boy on his way from India to Canada?

You get the Life of Pi, a really good story set mostly on a lifeboat that is 26-feet long, three and a half feet deep, and eight feet wide (printed on one of the side benches in black letters).

The way Yann Martel has divided his story into exactly 100 chapters of varying length shows how much effort has gone into crafting this prize-winning work.  His obvious research shows in the vivid setting descriptions, and the frequent interjections on faith or zoological science, which make up the frame of the story. 

I had no idea what to expect when I began with the ‘Author’s Note’, which set the scene for a story that ‘would make me believe in God’.  It was the beginning of a tale which was so nicely polished and detailed, so unexpected and original, and I enjoyed every bit of it. 

Cast of Characters [Characterisation] ~ 
Main character Piscine Molitor Patel was named after a swimming pool, though he goes by the shortened version of Pi (since Piscine sounded to much like ‘pissing’).
The story is mostly told from his point of view as narrator, so we are privy to Pi’s thoughts, his struggles, dreams and goals.  He definitely develops as a character, and is thrown into such an amazing train of events, that he sometimes changes very radically. 
The secondary characters visit briefly, but are usually distinct, and always play a part in Pi’s story.  

Places we love [Setting] ~
Toronto and Pondicherry; Pacific Ocean; Benito Juárez Infirmary, Tomatlán, Mexico.
Very vivid setting descriptions, told from Pi’s point of view, which shows some of his character.  The settings lend well to the rich and mysterious nature of the story.

Bricks and Mortar [Structure] ~
Like I mentioned, the story is told in 100 chapters, in three parts.  There is not standard chapter length, varying from a few lines to many pages. Some chapters are introspection, others only dialogue.  The final chapter is an official report of events.
The story begins at the end of the narrative!  But then, other parts of the story take place years after the main narrative, when Pi is an adult with a family.  Every now and then, the ‘author’ recounts their own experiences in learning the story of the main narrative.  
Part Three is in very different style from the rest of the book, sort of wrapping things up…or so you think, until there is a sudden twist!

What’s that sparkle? [Style] ~
Told from several points of view which are the mysterious ‘author’, the main character Pi, and then several secondary characters.  I think this works quite well for the story, revealing the main character and setting a unique atmosphere.
I love the way the author has played around with words, meanings and mystery.  While not appearing mysterious as such, we soon find out that things which seemed straight-forward are not always as they seem…
There is a dry humorous flavour to Life of Pi, which keeps this story of survival from being too desperate.    

This story has so much depth thanks to its many themes – the main ones were religion, survival, loss & then recovery.  The whole book could be interpreted as an intricate allegory, and should probably be read more than once!

If I had to summarise this book in one word it would be ‘honest’.  The author gives us a character, Pi Patel, who when faced with really weird forms of adversity, manages to survive by using his brain, skills, and faith.  It is also honest in showing that sometimes we just can’t understand why or how things happen.  

Sundries ~
I would recommend this book for capable readers. Though it is written in quite simple English, it’s themes, allegory, etc. would probably frustrate a reader who is not prepared to wonder over the implied, or read through a little philosophy.

I've read almost all the titles in that stack, so there will be more reviews on the way soon!

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