Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” chronicles Piscine Molitor Patel’s, or Pi’s, spectacular adventure on the high seas. When a cargo ship sinks, the young Indian boy must fend for himself in a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger.
The engrossing novel puts an interesting perspective on life. Pi’s constant struggles between life and death illustrate just how desperate even the most sane man may become in the most dire of circumstances. This brings him to contemplate life itself in both religious and secular contexts. The deep analysis of various facets of life really makes one rethink what is important. Society often gets caught up in material possessions, and Pi’s situation draws light to more basic questions that modern society often leaves unanswered. The philosophical journey through the story turns what could have been a dark, depressing tale into something that starts conversations.
Other than the philosophical ideas put forth, Martel’s writing keeps readers on their toes. Although the writing itself is not particularly flashy, the story takes many twists and turns. Some of the outcomes are evident from the beginning, but that is part of the novel’s appeal. The novel illustrates that the outcome is not as important as the journey. Between all of the interesting twists, the story can be somewhat monotonous, but this adds much to the atmosphere. It makes Pi’s situation more real in the eyes of the reader. In fact, the novel reads more like a biography than a work of fiction. The sheer simplicity of this approach gives “Life of Pi” its appeal.
However, this book is not without its flaws. Some sections of the book have much more detail than necessary, and this distracts readers from some of the more important ideas that Martel presents. If the level of detail was more consistent, this would not be as much of a problem. Another flaw lies in that sections of the book switch between time periods. In the beginning, the time jump is not very apparent and the story is fairly confusing. It gets more clear as the story continues, but it makes the novel somewhat difficult to get into. Finally, the ending is somewhat too ambiguous. The novel ends abruptly without answering many questions. The philosophical parts of the story come together nicely; Pi’s account, however, does not come together quite so well.
Even so, Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” is an excellent book. The captivating story about a young Indian boy stranded at sea explores many deep ideas in an easy to follow format that is as interesting as it is thought-provoking.