Y is for Yann Martel


I can’t believe I’m on Y already. This year has disappeared – nearly half way through 2009…

Anyway, my Y book is Yann Martel’s “The Life of Pi”. I’ve read this once before, about six years ago.
For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s the story of a boy called Pi (Piscine Molitor Patel) who finds himself stuck in a boat with a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger. The obvious irony is that he’s called ‘Swimming pool’ in French and a large part of the story’s spent in the water, but actually that didn’t irritate me at all.
I don’t want to tell you a lot of the plot, as I hate reviews that give away too much. However, I will say a couple of things.
Firstly, a lot more of the book is on land than I remembered. In fact, the whole first part is in India, where the reader gets to know Pi and his family life, as well as his love of God in his many forms.
Secondly, you know what happens to Pi from the beginning of the book, as his adult self narates the story. This takes the tension out, but it’s intriguing to know how he conquers the tiger, and stays alive on the ocean for so long.
I found the character arc to be brilliantly written. Pi is forced by circumstance to inhabit a brutal role, one where he kills whatever he can to keep him and the tiger alive.
The imagery in these sections is breathtaking. When Pi kills a big fish, he describes how the colours of it’s skin change rapidly, through all of the camouflage it knows. Pi likens this to ‘killing a rainbow’, an incongruent metaphor that drives home the brutality of his actions while maintaining the ‘Pi’ character.
Apart from Pi, the rest of the ‘cast’ are colourfully rendered and well rounded – surprising in a story which is about a boy and a tiger, trapped in a boat.
Pi is deeply religious, and follows Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism to the point where he is the subject of an argument between three holy men. This underlying faith runs through the whole book, allowing the reader to question and believe to a point where they ultimately make the same leap of faith as Pi does.
It was my birthday last week, when I read Life of Pi. I looked up Yann Martel in good olWikipedia, only to find that his birthday is the same day as mine! Just as in the book, life contains strange coincidences that you can either put down to life, or make that leap of faith which elevates them to miraculous.
Next week, I’m reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I’ve tried reading it before, and it’s pretty hefty, so wish me luck!
Have a great week, lovely readers.

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