Being given an unfortunate name is quite simply one of the worst things that can happen to a person in the first few days of their life. It has an impact on the entire rest of their lives. But for Piscine “Yes, I am named after a swimming pool” Molitor Patel, it wasn’t the only unfortunate thing he had to deal with. The taunts from his peers were bad enough, but shipwrecked and stuck on a lifeboat with a massive Bengal tiger and only sea as far as the eye can see. That’s pretty bad luck!
Piscine, or Pi, as he later calls himself, is adorable in this novel by Yann Martel. I deliberately didn’t want to watch the movie before delving into the book, and it has taken me a while to get around to reading it, so I have had to try pretty hard to avoid the film. But I am very glad I waited. The book is exquisitely written. Every word draws you in to Pi’s narrative, every new character is intricately sculpted, especially the animal characters.
The zoological references are peppered throughout the book, leaving you with a much greater knowledge and understanding of the animal kingdom without the feeling you have been lectured to. It is like delving into the undergrowth with David Bellamy (a reference for the older ones among us), or at times like being in an episode of Animal Planet.
The Life of Pi is a spiritual journey, an outstanding study into the remarkable endurance of the human spirit, and an insight into the world beyond the restrictive borders of mankind. Martel’s narrative draws the reader into scene after scene of horrifying beauty and somehow makes the impossible possible in a plot that is both fantastical and terrifyingly real.