Although I loathe to admit it, it was the release of the film that made me finally get off my behind and read Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  In my defence, I have heard wildly different opinions on this novel.  Some have raved saying it’s one of the greatest novels they’ve ever read, with superb imagery, writing and characters.

Others have said it dragged, nothing happened and they were almost put to sleep by it.

Not exactly positive reviews.

Nevertheless, my inner book nerd popped her head up and I schlepped off to the closest book store (where I conveniently got a discount, win), bought myself a copy and let’s just say…thank goodness I routinely ignore other people’s advice.

Piscine ‘Pi’ Molitor Patel is an Indian teenager who has grown up on a zoo with his family; his mother, older brother and zookeeper father.  His life up until now has had two great passions; his love and respect for animals, both great and small, and his belief in religions and their gods…yes, multiple.

When his parents decide to move to Canada, he and his family set sail on a cargo ship, filled with animals from their zoo departing for various countries.  One night, a storm hits and the ship capsizes; Pi is the only surviving human, stuck on a lifeboat with an injured zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena and…a 450 pound bengal tiger.

Against the odds; the vicious animals, the weather extremities and the continual need for water and food, Pi’s desire to survive out stands them all, as we are taken on a fantastical journey of how one person can withstand the impossible.

To be completely honest, I can understand why people wouldn’t enjoy this book, because although it does have that impressive shipwreck smack bang in the middle of the novel, most of the time not much appears to be occurring in the storyline.  Yes, there are story arcs, but the focus of the novel (at least, this is what I personally took from it) were the day-to-day struggles, trials and discoveries that Pi dealt with.

Personally I found Martel to be a beautiful writer, who was very descriptive, yet all the details didn’t seem exhaustive in the slightest.  Instead, at times I felt that I was out there with Pi, boiling in the sun, trying to survive another day (particularly on the 42 degree that I was reading this on).

Furthermore, while the novel obviously deals greatly with the day-to-day survival that Pi had to endure; from feeding, and not being eaten by, Richard Parker (the tiger, that confused me for a while), to finding food and water for himself; overall I found that Martel really drove home how mentally wearing being on one’s own would be.

Can you imagine spending 227 days on a lifeboat, by yourself, wondering if you’re ever going to see land, civilisation or people again?  Knowing that your entire family has died and you have little to nothing to go back to?  All these questions were addressed in detail by Pi’s struggles, and what a person must go through to make it through to the other end.

Overall, I enjoyed this book because it made me look at things more closely and clearly, and with a different perspective.  I found Pi extremely personable, as well as Richard Parker, and the weird, tense relationship they had together.  I particularly loved the descriptions of marine life Pi encounters, but that could just be what I enjoy.

However, if you are easily bored, or are more interested in an absorbing story, with whizzes, bangs and romance (all very enjoyable things I like reading about), then I wouldn’t suggest Life of Pi for you. On the other hand, if you are a keen reader who appreciates beautiful writing, realistic descriptions and a little bit of fantasy, then please give this a shot, especially if you’re planning on hitting the cinemas afterwards!

Have you read or seen Life of Pi?  Are you planning to?  What did you think?

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