At the end of February 2008 I started to read Life of Pi as part of my literature course.
I did not know the author nor the story but the fact that it won the Booker Prize in 2002 made me believe that I was going to like this book. Firstly, let me tell you briefly what the story is about.
Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi Patel, is the son of a zoo owner. He is an exceptionally bright young man and shows his maturity quite clearly when it comes to religion. He is a Muslim, a Hindu and a Christian all at the same time. But soon, political discontent drives his family out of India and towards Canada. The zoo is sold, the bags are packed and the whole family (including several animals on their way to American zoos) boards the Tsimtsum, a Japanese cargo ship with a Taiwanese crew. The ship sinks and from that point on, this is a story of survival against amazing odds. Not only does Pi Patel survive 227 days in the Pacific Ocean, but he does it in the company of an adult male Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
The book consists of three parts so let me express my feelings about part one, the part I really didnt like. It was a total waste of a 100 pages which the author could have written in a few lines. Therefore the whole entire first part can be skipped. Pi likes animals. He and his family are zookeepers. His dad thinks tigers are the most dangerous animals on the planet. Pi secretly goes around practicing Muslim, Christian and Hindu religions until they all find out about each others roles in Pis life and try to convince him to choose one - theirs. And because money isnt good and India is falling apart his family decides to get on a boat with all their animals and move from India to Canada. I think the author added all that in as a filler so he would have exactly 100 chapters. He even mentions that in the book. Near the end Pi is wondering if he can condense his story into 100 chapters
Part two starts with 3 words: The ship sank. From that moment on the book got my full intention and I started to like the book more and more. For the most part his journey cleaves to the regular clichs of shipwrecked unfortunates--burning thirst, gnawing hunger, a couple of terrible typhoons, a passing ship that does not stop, a succession of triumphs of will and determination, and finally respite on a deserted island. At this part of the book I started to wonder what the purpose of this island was. I couldnt fully comprehend why this island was like heaven during day time and hell during night. What was the author trying to make clear to the readers? Was it just another chapter filling episode or is there a deeper meaning to the island, one I have not found out yet.
Part three is the shortest of them all and surprised me tremendously. Pi is being debriefed by Japanese businessmen who owned the boat that Pi's lifeboat came from. There's sort of a twist at the end in which we learn that the story of Pi's survival with Richard Parker may have been a fabrication he created in order to deal with the trauma of what really happened. In the second version the animals are replaced by humans, making the story more realistic. It leaves the matter open to the reader to decide what to believe, providing evidence that could go either way. This leads me to the question whether this is a good ending or not. At first, I thought that it was a sort of bad or sad/negative ending. But after finishing the book there is no doubt in my mind that it was a good one. Despite the beating that his mind, body and soul endured, he still had spunk; he was as the Japanese guy described him "very smart and very tough." Even though his family was all dead, and he had seen and experienced so many terrible things, he endured and persevered and survived. No matter which story is true, it showed me that everybody is capable of surviving if you only try hard enough. Pi did survived and came out stronger than ever, with wife, kids and a nice home.
Overall I did enjoy the book and there have been times (after page 100) that I had troubles putting it down. I am convinced that I will read the book again in a later stage in my life. Some books need to be read at least twice to get the deeper meaning of the story.
I have read on the internet that they are thinking of making a film out of the book. If that ever going to happen I will be the first to see it.