Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Life of Pi

Posted by nliakos on November 23, 2012

by Yann Martel (Harcourt 2001)

I read this years ago (possibly twice), probably sometime in the year of publication, and loved it. The movie has just come out, so I read it again to remind myself of the details before I go see it, probably next week. The movie is in 3D. I can’t wait to see how they translate this amazing story to the big screen.

Pi Patel is 16 years old when his family decide to move from southern India to Canada. Since his father was the keeper of the Pondicherry Zoo, they sail on the Tsimtsum with a boatload of zoo animals bound for various zoos in the United States. When the ship sinks, Pi, the only human survivor, finds himself on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan named Orange Juice, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (is it mere coincidence that this was the name of the poor cabin boy who was eaten by his shipmates after their yacht Mignonette sank in 1884?) who quickly dispatches the other animals. Pi must find a way to co-exist with the tiger if he is to survive, so he decides to train him, and co-exist they do, for seven months while the lifeboat makes its way across the Pacific Ocean. It’s an astonishing story, mostly credible and always gripping. The reader picks up all kinds of information along the way–about zoos, animals, tigers in particular, surviving at sea, religion… I’ve never read another book quite like this one, that’s for sure.

2 Responses to “Life of Pi”

  1. Nina Liakos said

    I saw Ang Lee’s movie Life of Pi today and was happily surprised at how closely he stuck to the story in the book. He added a gratuitous girlfriend left behind in Pondicherry and Richard Parker jumping off the lifeboat in pursuit of fish (I think), which required that Pi rescue him, but these did not affect the story line much. The other elements were all there: the terrifying sinking of the ship and the later storm, the flimsy raft, the storm at sea, the carnivorous island… The cinematography was incredible (and we didn’t even see it in 3D). Thank you, Ang Lee, for yet another great film.

  2. Nina Liakos said

    A Hindu perspective on the story from tai chi teacher and erstwhile Hindu monk Charles Votaw: The story Pi tells the Japanese investigators at the end of the book is what actually happened. To maintain his sanity and survive these horrors, Pi splits himself into two: soul (boy) and body (tiger) during his ordeal at sea. Only this way can he come to terms with what he must do to survive (i.e., kill and eat flesh).

    I think I preferred the first story (like the author), but this adds another layer of meaning.

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