Sunday, 2 September 2012

BOOK: Life of Pi, Yann Martel (9/10)

Life of Pi - despite appearances not a children's book!
Why did I read it?
I was really impressed by the trailer for the upcoming Ang Lee film adaptation and realising it was based on a best-selling novel decided to borrow the book from a friend. I'm never sure which is the best way round to read book or watch adaptations but there is no going back now.

What's it all about?
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure about an Indian teenager named Pi, who finds himself the sole survivor of a shipwreck on-board a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, a chimpanzee, a zebra and a hyena for company. It sounds surreal but the first half of the book describes a credible back story. Pi's father is a zoo-keeper and the family decide to sell the zoo and relocate to Canada, hence the voyage across the Pacific with a ship full of dangerous animals. 

Should you read it?
The upcoming film poster
The book takes its time during the first half to set the scene with the tale of Pi's upbringing at an Indian zoo, his experiences with animals and also his take on spirituality but once his ordeal starts its clear why Martel dedicates so much print to the back story.

In terms of Pi's detailed account of his practical approach to survival the story is similar to the real life survival of Aaron Ralston in 127 Hours (minus the tiger).

A word of warning, Martel doesn't hold back in graphically depicting the demise of the boat's occupants and I'm not normally affected by violence in films but when related to animals, in particular during a week when my cat was badly hurt, it was almost too much to take.

The book is a fascinating combination of religion and animal psychology and a harrowing tale of survival at all costs that I couldn't put down. I have very high hopes for the film.

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