After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one 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.
At a young age, I remember walking through my school library and picking Life of Pi to read. The title intrigued me. I have always chosen new novels by browsing through titles that instantly catches my eye. Life of Pi was one of them. Right away, I knew the novel was about someone called Pi. I thought to myself that Pi was a very strange name and I wanted to know more about the person. So I checked out the book.
Many years later, all I could recall about the novel was that it had a tiger, a boat and a boy named Pi. The rest of the plot was rather blurry. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I’m beginning to lose details of books that I’ve read in the past. Then again I’ve read many books. But I always remember the lasting impressions of all the books that I have read; the good, the bad and especially the ones that’ve made me cry. Hence, when the Life of Pi movie came out, a lot of memories came flooding back in. I instantly knew that I should reread the book.
The movie was positively beautiful. The visual effects were stunning. Above all, the CGI masters captured the Bengal tiger perfectly. The scenic locations in India even reminded me of Tarsem Singh’s 2006 movie: The Fall; one of my all time favourites that I highly recommend. It’s very rare for me to fall in love with both the movie and the novel of Life of Pi. Of course, the book is better and provides a lot more detail. Nevertheless, the director, Ang Lee managed to produce a marvellous film.
As expected, I’m here to critique to you about the novel rather than the film itself. The last thing I want is a comparison between the novel and movie. It’s not needed, but I might add a few photographs from the movie. Similar to the layout of the book, the Life of Pi critique will be written in three parts. Will there be spoilers? Like many of my critiques, there will be a great deal of it. You have been warned.
“I have a story that will make you believe in God.”
The novel starts from the very beginning in the author’s note. Most author’s note are based on the truth. But I suppose it’s up to the writer to decide on how much truth is written. In the Life of Pi, the reader will have to question themselves whether the novel is based on fact or fiction. As well as how far are the readers willing to believe in the truth. Henceforth, one of the major themes throughout this novel is storytelling. Pi is telling the story to the writer, Yann Martel, who occasionally can be rather intrusive by switching the story back and forth to the present. This gives the readers enough time to breath and recollect their thoughts.
The main protagonist and narrator, Piscine Molitor Patel, also known as Pi, was named after a famous french swimming pool in Paris. With his heart in the right place, Patel lives his life with great curiosity and belief. He’s just one of those characters in which you can’t help but fall in love with. Occasionally, Martel shares touches of comedy. The way he describes characters through the eyes of Pi is rather amusing. We can all agree that his childhood brings much laughter to myself and the readers.
This novel contains many excellent quotes, too many in fact. The quote above is one of my personal favourites, Pi’s constant battle with death, which we will certainly see more later on. Part one of the Life of Pi tells the story about Pi’s childhood upbringing in Pondicherry, India. His awareness and love of nature started in Pondicherry Zoo, which was owned by his father. In chapter four, Pi paints a beautiful, descriptive picture, overflowing with plants and animals, calling it his ‘paradise on earth’ and that he ‘lived the life of a prince.’ I admire how people see the world differently. Some people see the negative aspects. Whereas others, like Pi, see the beauty of the world.
Finding and believing in God is a fundamental theme throughout this novel. It starts within the author’s note when an elderly man approaches Martel and says, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” In a rather humorous approach, Pi finds faith in not one but three separate religions: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Why? For the simplest of reasons he replies, “All religions are true. I just want to love God”. From that sweet quote alone, we’re beginning to understand why Pi chose to believe in three religions. He naturally wants to appreciate and understand God. By believing in God, he sees the living world through kindness.