Sunday, March 9, 2008

Life of Pi

This one has been on my radar since it was released in the U.S. in 2003. I can't say that it was at the top of my list, but it was one that I eventually wanted to read. I checked Life of Pi out of my library as an audiobook, and I was thankful that I listened to it because it took me many weeks to finally finish the nine CDs.

Pi Patel is the son of a zookeeper in southern India. His father teaches him great lessons about the animals, as well as how to respect these ferocious creatures. This introductory part of the story spans about a third of the book, and I found myself just wanting to get on with the heart of the tale. That's when the Patel family decides to emigrate to Canada with all the animals. Pi's mother, father, older brother and the entire zoo board a Japanese cargo ship and head out into the Pacific Ocean. Not long into the voyage the ship sinks, leaving only Pi, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker. How the tiger was named along with several other quirky anecdotes helped to keep my attention throughout a story that seemed to drag on endlessly. (However, I am much more patient when listening to a book as opposed to turning page after page.) Eventually, all the animals die except for Richard Parker, and the story then follows the 227 days Pi and the tiger are stranded together on a life raft. I found certain parts of their journey very entertaining, but I also felt that I was waiting for a fantastic climax; unfortunately I never got one.

From the reviews that I have read, I seem to be in the minority of people who found this tale too lengthy and lacking in excitement. Yann Martel is described as an "emerging master" with "tremendous storytelling skills." Life of Pi is assessed as a "richly patterned work." I happened to like the story overall, but wished it was more succinct and thrilling. For the amount of reading I do, I feel I'm allowed to be so hard on the books I read. When they really stand out and I think about them long after I've finished the last chapter, that's when I know I've found a true winner.