Written by Yann Martel, Life of Pi, was first published in 2001 and is a fantasy adventure novel that was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. I first read this novel about 5 years later and was immediately moved by the storyline and deep thought behind this novel. Although, Life of Pi, takes a little time to build up, there’s no denying the powerful language and thought that this fiction work boasts of.
The Plot of Life of Pi
Life of Pi is essentially divided into three sections. The first part introduces us to the character of Piscine Molitor Patel, fondly known as Pi who lives an affluent lifestyle in Pondicherry, India thanks to his father owning a zoo out there. The book builds u initially during this part and it is here that Pi begins following the three religions of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam as in his own words “he just wants to love God”.
The second part of Life of Pi starts when the boy’s family decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada due to political instability in India. However, the ship carrying them and some of the animals sinks due to bad weather and Pi finds himself stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker, a hyena, an injured zebra, and an orangutan. The novel then takes a grisly turn when the hyena kills the zebra and the orangutan and eats them little by little. However, the hyena itself is killed by the tiger and Pi finds himself alone on the boat with Parker.
“I was alone and orphaned, in the middle of the Pacific, hanging on to an oar, an adult tiger in front of me, sharks beneath me, a storm raging about me. Had I considered my prospects in the light of reason, I surely would have given up and let go of the oar, hoping that I might drown before being eaten. But I don’t recall that I had a single thought during those first minutes of relative safety. I didn’t even notice daybreak. I held on to the oar, I just held on, God only knows why”
Life of Pi picks up pace during this part as the boy struggles to assert himself as the alpha male of the group thereby ensuring his survival. In all, Pi survives 227 days in the lifeboat, often half delusional with thirst and hunger. The lifeboat reaches the coast of Mexico and Richard Parker escapes into the nearby jungle, so that rescuers find only Pi.
It is here that the third part and perhaps the most interesting one of Life of Pi starts when Pi is interviewed by two officials of the maritime department. However, they do not believe a word of the story so Pi begins afresh and tells a similar story but this time without the animals and introduces new character of a killer cook, a sailor with a broken leg and his mother. Parallels to Pi’s first story lead the Japanese officials to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, and the hyena represents the cook. Richard Parker, then, is Pi himself.
Life of Pi leaves us with a twist – a question really of what actually happened. What is the truth of Pi’s adventure? What do we want? A story which makes us think or one filled with only dry facts?
“I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. You want dry, yeastless factuality.”
The Good Bit About Life of Pi
Life of Pi is not really about a castaway boy and a tiger. Instead it is an exploration of faith and tolerance. It is symbolic of all the challenges and fears we face in life – those that which we must overcome not just to survive but also to find dignity and solace in life!
It’s a unique book that takes it time to build up and something which takes time to appreciate. A thought-provoking book, Life of Pi is a book filled with deep thoughts and difficult questions – a book that needs to be read and digested and then read again!
The Not So Good Bit About Life of Pi
Simply put, it’s not a book for the masses. It’s a book that is slow in the beginning and takes time to build its characters. Many of you might become bored during the first 100 pages but the truth is Life of Pi saves its best for the last.
Final Verdict on Life of Pi
Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a simply extraordinary book that actually has something to say about life, yet it’s not preachy or overbearing. As one critic puts it, the book is “a head scratching combination of dense religious allegory, zoological lore and enthralling adventure tale, written with warmth and grace.”
And for all those who love a book with a great discount, Flipkart is currently offering the Life of Pi at an amazing 35% discount! The MRP of Life of Pi is INR 300 but I got my copy at INR 194 and that too with Free Home Delivery!