After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan — and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years.
Review: This is going to be a very difficult review for me to write – not for any profound personal reason or connection I have to the book because let’s face it, nobody can have a personal connection to a boy trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger. I’m going to find this difficult because Life of Pi is so different to anything I’ve ever read before. Something so much more deep and meaningful yet blissfully simplistic. I watched the movie in the summer and was blown away by it and knew instantly I wanted to read the book from where this beautiful story came from. I don’t necessarily think the book was widely better than the film (I spoke about what I think about movie adaptations in this post) – I prefer to look at them as separate entities but today I’m talking about the book and my gosh, what a book.
Life of Pi is about a boy called Pi, where on a trip from India to Canada where his family and their zoo animals are upping sticks and moving to start a new life, the cargo ship he is travelling on sinks. His entire family (and most of the animals his family owned) die, but he manages to get aboard a life boat. There’s only one problem… He’s not alone.
Life of Pi was split into 3 parts – before the shipwreck, during the survival period and briefly afterwards. It’s told from Pi’s point of view – so he doesn’t spare you any of the gory and horrific details. The two main sections of the book: before and after are wildly different. I adored the first part the most, especially as an animal lover. I found it almost like reading a documentary – when Pi goes into the ins and outs of a zoo and all its animals. I learnt a lot from this book. A hella lot. I read it so slowly as to devour every single word during this first section, it was so deeply interesting.
Onto the middle section which essentially documents his survival days inside the lifeboat. These were very graphic. I was quite gob-smacked actually at the amount of detail which went into this part – how he got food, how he killed dorados and turtles. The research for this book must have been beyond extensive for the author to capture these so, so, very rare moments and make them so vivid and real – despite it being purely fantasy. As the story progresses and Pi’s struggle grows, you can almost feel a pull within you, along with the book. I found the middle section much more difficult to read than the first – it almost sucked the energy out of me in some parts which could be considered a bad thing but due to the nature of the book, it almost felt intentional.
This book holds so, so many messages and lessons. I’m deeply interested in religion and the such and this book focuses a lot on that – Pi has multiple religions after all! I found that so fascinating – both at the beginning and during his time at sea and how he translates his religious teachings onto what’s happening to him and most importantly, how he never, ever loses faith. His relationship with Richard Parker (the tiger) was captured beautifully with respect for both human and animal. Pi did what he had to do to survive and so did Richard Parker. But they somehow managed to live in somewhat harmony during their time together which teaches us that miracles and extensively unrealistic things can happen. And work. And survive.
Now if I don’t end this review here I honestly will not stop talking so basically, Life of Pi is a work of art. It’s a literary masterpiece in my eyes and although I didn’t 100% enjoy every page (having to stop for 5 minutes during a particular graphic bit) I felt it was all worth it – every word. It was honestly, one of the deepest and richest books in a very, very long time.