Thursday, November 15, 2012
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
At first, I didn't understand what sort of this story this book could be. After all, what could you write about a boy and a Tiger on a life-raft? (And by the way, even after reading the book, I still don't see how it can be a movie). But Yann Martel has managed to weave together a gripping story, even if I didn't understand the purpose of Part 1.
The main part of the book is definitely the story. I thought that the characterization of Pi was really strong, and his interaction with Richard Parker (the Tiger) very interesting. It's definitely a good look at what it means to survive, and whether you can (or should), give up certain practices just to survive.
But at the end of the book, it kind of unraveled a bit. I think the second, parallel story was kind of cool, but it lessened the impact of the main narrative. I think that unless both stories were woven together from the start, it's a bit strange. And Pi came across as pretentious in the last part, which kind of ruined the whole character-reader connection for me. I may be the sort of person that loves using big words to argue with people, but in Pi's case, it wasn't believable. And he had the tinge of "rude" that I can't stand.
Lastly, the depiction of religion in the book. Pi somehow manages to sustain belief in three religions - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. I don't know if the author was trying to say something about the plurality of religions, but it's impossible to be a real believer in all three. For one thing, two of the three (at least) religions demand belief only in them. To ignore that is to ignore the basic tenets and so, not be a true believer. And the arguments? Very unconvincing to anyone who knows even the slightest bit of theology (and no, I don't believe that just by believing "all religions are true" you can overcome all their differences).
Overall, an interesting book. I don't see the hype about it (this is one of the books you hear about before you read), but the middle section is good. It would be even better if Part 1 and Part 3 were re-written and the whole religion theme reconsidered (basically, I liked only the bit where he was lost at sea).