Book Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I am one of those absurd people who insists on reading a book before they watch the adapted film even though experience tells me that the films never live up to my expectations. Several of my friends raved about how amazing the film ‘Life of Pi’ was and so, dutifully, I decided to read the book before watching the film.
Having done limited research, I have to admit that I thought the book was based on a true story and after becoming disheartened with the pace a few chapters in, finally reading around on the internet and discovering that it was entirely fictional, I almost gave up.
For those who don’t know, Life of Pi is the story of a young boy who is stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific after a shipwreck in which he loses his entire family on their emigration to Canada. Joining him aboard the lifeboat is a 450 pound Bengal tiger, an orang-utan, a zebra with a broken leg and a hyena. It follows the adventures of Pi on his journey to be rescued.
I found the story incredibly slow-going. I hadn't expected there to be such a back story about Pi’s religious affiliations, his life at his family’s zoo, the different animals, the teachers he respected etc etc before the shipwreck. Once I realised it wasn't a true story, I actually struggled to see the relevance of a lot of it, so what if he wanted to be part of 3 different religious groups, how does that affect his ability to deal with a tiger coming at him? Obviously, the skills he learned from his father about handling wild animals had a huge impact but this could have been condensed into a couple of chapters. I'm sure it is almost halfway through the book before you get to the ‘good’ part.
As you can see, I was not overly enamoured with this story and am actually struggling to think of how to review it in a positive light. I can see how it would be amazing as a film, the things they can do with graphics and how much detail Yann Martel goes into with the wildlife and fauna and sea creatures would make for fascinating watching I think but as a book it somehow misses the mark. There is a lot of technical detail which seems irrelevant in a non-factual story. To me, fiction allows a writer to explore the impossible, to stretch our imaginations and to cause us to wonder ‘what if?’…Martel does this up to a point with the story but then fills in the gaps with, frankly, mundane scientific details which then draw attention away from the fantastical side of this book.
Unfortunately, this isn't a book I would recommend unless you have a particular interest in the finer details of marine life. The film, however, is one I am definitely looking forward to seeing.
Reviewed by our Superstar Duck Egg Book Club Editor - Jess.
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