Book Review: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

imagesMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

A boy on a boat with a tiger hardly sounds like something that could hold your attention over 401 pages.
You will find the Life of Pi filed under Literary works, although Wikipedia claims its a fantasy adventure, which I am sure many readers would contest. But the story does contain strong elements of fantasy and therefore it is one of those books that will uncomfortably straddle a number of genres. The book won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 and is now a multi-oscar nominated film too.
The protagonist, Piscine Molitar Patel, Pi Patel for short is a second-child from Pondicherry, India, where his father ran a zoo in the botanical gardens. Changes in the political climate leads Pi’s father to make the decision to sell the animals to zoo’s in other parts of the world and to move his family to Canada. The ship that carries Pi, his family and the a great number of the zoo’s residents is mysteriously wrecked, with Pi as the only human survivor, cast adrift in a lifeboat. His companions are a Bengal Tiger, an Orangutan, a Hyena and a Zebra. Unlike any other castaway, Pi has to survive not only the terrors of the seas, but his fellow castaways too!
The above summary encapsulates the basis of the plot but there is far more to the book then that. Martel evokes colours, smells and flavors in a way that very few writers have mastered, bringing every aspect of the life of Pi Patel to be vividly reconstructed in the readers mind. The language has the same ‘bombast’ as would be appreciated by Indian English speakers and the plot is unfolded with opulence of a table spread in a South Asian home.
Why is a fantasy author waxing lyrical about a ‘literary’ book? Its simple. Good writing that has excellent plotting and characterization is what we seek in every read. The Life of Pi delivers strongly on both accounts. For that reason, Life of Pi fully earns the rare accolade of five stars from me. If you have a ‘Read a novel’ on you bucket list, then this is definitely one you should consider.

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