Review: Life of Pi

‘Life of Pi’

When I began to read this novel, I knew I was about to start reading something special. A book does not become a bestseller out of the blue. So I expected a lot of this book, and I was somewhat surprised that I wasn’t really enjoying the first pages. I found it rather boring actually, too many detailistic descriptions. Pi, the protagonist of the book, talks about his childhood in India. He also describes how he began to develop his love for religions. Yes, religions, plural, he doesn’t only follow Hinduism, but also Islam and Christianity. ‘I just love God’, says Pi. When I continued reading through the first part of the three, the story took a completely different turn, it became exciting, a real page turner, I have to admit. The writer, Yann Martel, did a really good job of making the reader want to continue reading, it’s as if he is rewarding you for finishing the first part. The second part starts with the sinking of the boat heading for Canada with all the animals and Pi’s family aboard.
Unfortunately, Pi is the only human survivor and soon he discovers that the other survivors are an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra and Richard Parker, a giant Bengal Tiger. Of course the animals start to eat each other. After a week the only animal left is Richard Parker. And Pi. From this point the story really gets going. Pi, knowing he is going to have a hard time surviving by the lack of food and water, now also has to worry about not getting eaten by a tiger, so he decides he has to help and befriend the beast.
The tiger and the boy start to bond with each other, mainly because Pi shares his food, which exists of fish out of the Pacific Ocean. The two come across all kinds of strange things. At one point they finally strand on solid grounds, but it eventually turns out to be an island with toxic algae that eat flesh. As I write it down here it all seems very unbelievable, but when you are actually reading the book everything seems to make perfect sense. The story ends with the two ‘friends’ arriving on the coast of Mexico. Richard Parker escapes immediately to the jungle nearby. Pi tells his survival story to two Japanese officials who want to find out why and where the ship sunk. Of course, they can’t take Pi seriously when they hear a story of a boy who survived on a life boat with a giant Bengal tiger. Then Pi tells the story again, but now with human survivors, and he asks them which they like better. They both like the animal story better.
What really surprised me is that the underlying theme of this book is religion. When I  read the cover I didn’t immediately think of religion. In the first part you read that Pi is committed to God and religions. But during the reading you don’t feel like ‘this book is a theological novel’. Pi is quite philosophical though, but when you’re floating for 272 days on a life boat I find that pretty logical. I recommend this book to everyone, although you have to fight your way through the first pages.

By Arthur van LeeuwenImage


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