Monday, November 20, 2006
Life of Pi **********
Amazon.com says: Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting "religions the way a dog attracts fleas." Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker ("His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth"). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don't burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat's sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: "It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I've made none the champion."
I say: After reading a book like this, I feel inadequate even trying to find the words to review it! Life of Pi will no doubt be in my Top 10 books of All Time... In fact, it might very well be in the Top 5. I'm one of those people who could NEVER read a book more than once, - unless it's for study purposes and I really really really I HAVE TO. I've always admired(?) people who can read a book over and over again. It's a special gift to be able to be "surprised" again and again by the same words on the same page. (It's different with movies, - they're no-brainers anyway...) I could enjoy reading a passage over and over again while I'm in the process of reading a book for the first (and only!) time, and I often do when I find something particularly poignant / meaningful / skillfully written. SO, for ME to say that I would go back to this book and re-read it, is a MAJOR thing. There's nothing particulary clever about Martel's vocabulary - I find Big Words incredibly boring anyway. But the storytelling is something else. Wow, what a story. I'm a big cat lover (as you know by now!) so there were times when I didn't know WHOSE side I was on, but what I do know is that it was physically painful at times to hold my breath until I knew everything was going to be okay. I think I was expecting a Disney Fairytale when I heard about it? Maybe it's the cover that misleads you, so the first 2 chapters kinda threw me. But once I got into it, I was hooked. I could taste/hear/see/feel/smell every change in the weather/water/sky/sun that Pi experienced in his 227 days on the water.
If there's one book you read this holiday, make it Life of Pi. The story is meant to be a sad one, but there is so much hope, strength, resilience and beauty in it, it has to be one of most uplifting books I've ever read! Ten out of five, Martel. Ten out of five!
(Thanks, Noodle, for lending me your copy. I think I just might buy one of my own soon!)