Life of Pi by Yann Martel

screenshot_02Life of Pi is a fiction novel that was written by Yann Martel. One of Martel’s most famous works, Life of Pi, which was published in 2001, is about an Indian boy, Pi, growing up and navigating his way through life first as a boy in India, second as a teenager drifting out to sea for 227 days and third as a survivor. Pi states in the beginning that his is a story that speaks on the existence of God. The novel shows how one might survive on a lifeboat with only himself, his beliefs in God and a Bengal Tiger to depend on.

There was a lot of hype surrounding this book and even more when the movie came out. Because of that, I was hesitant to give it a try. When Forrest Gump came out, my mom, brother and I went to see it and really liked it, so we told my dad that it was a great movie that he would really like. When he finally watched it at home on VHS, he was a bit let down because of all of the anticipation. But, everyone knows that Forrest Gump really is a good movie. When I finally got around to reading this book and then watching the movie, I was surprised to find that I was not all that disappointed. With the exception of one aspect of the novel, there was a lot that I liked about the book. The descriptions in the book were very intense so much so that some parts were difficult to get through. The emotions described by Pi were palpable to the point where I was almost in tears when the tiger walked into the jungle.

UnknownAn interesting part of the story, to me, was that, even though I didn’t know how Pi had survived, I knew that he had indeed survived. It was the same feeling I got from reading Unbroken. I knew that the Olympic runner had survived but kept reading because I couldn’t imagine how it was possible. Whereas the book Unbroken is non-fiction account of what happened to Louis Zamperini, this book is a work of fiction. It is a work of fiction made to seem like a non-fiction account of Pi surviving at sea for 227 days. There were a number of occasions in the book where the narrator assured us that the story was true and that the account given was accurate. This was not at all the case, of course. In college, we watched an Oliver North film about the “desparecidos” of El Salvador called Salvador. The movie came across as a non-fiction account of what had happened and even included script at the end of the movie explaining what happened in the country after the story ended. While many atrocities did occur in El Salvador during the period, the movie was actually fiction, which I felt cheated us from learning about really happened, and I felt tricked. I don’t like feeling tricked and that’s why I only really like this book and don’t love it.

For those that haven’t read the book, I will not write about what happens at the end because it is a bit of a spoiler, except that I want to say that, when I first got through the book, I thought a lot about the end and what it meant. The more I thought about it, the more confused and irritated I became as I began thinking “How does that make sense?” I think that I made a mistake in trying to overthink it and that I should have just accepted it as a part of the fiction and moved on. Those who have read the book and seen the movie know what I mean. I will also say that I do recommend the movie to those who have read the book because it does help even more with the visualization of the book, and, for those who have only seen the movie, the book has a lot more to add, especially to the character of Pi.

We watched the movie at home in 3D and were not disappointed in the image quality of the movie. Everything was beautifully done and it all seemed magical, which helped with the feel of the book. With exception of a small role played by Gerard Depardieu, the majority of the actors are unknown outside of Bollywood.

Even though the book was published in 2001 and was an immediate success, the movie wasn’t released until 2012 because there were many delays in determining who would write the screenplay and direct. Initially, M. Night Shyamalan was set to direct the film but then decided to make Lady in the Water instead (not his wisest decision, in my opinion). Another director, Alfonso Cuarón, signed on but then passed so that he could make Children of Men (at least that movie was better, IMO).

Finally, Ang Lee agreed to direct the movie and began casting in 2010, seven years after the movie rights had been granted. Suraj Sharma was only 17-years-old when he began extensive training in ocean survival for the role of Pi. Toby Maguire filmed scenes as the author who interviews the adult Pi, but Lee felt that it didn’t work due to Maguire’s recognizability so the scenes were re-filmed with a lesser known actor. All of the ocean scenes were filmed in a giant water tank built by crew in an abandoned airport. Needless to say, a lot of thought and work went in to making this movie and making it great, and, since the movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 4, I would say the work paid off. I own the movie and, now that I have seen it, I wonder about the re-watchability of the movie. Time will tell.

As I have said, I recommend the book to anyone who has seen and enjoyed the movie. I wouldn’t call it an easy, mindless read because there were some scenes that were quite violent, although not too violent for young adult readers. I very much enjoyed the narration of the book, as he was able to accurately differentiate the characters and successfully perform many different accents. I learned that the narrator, Jeff Woodman, has also done a number of other books that I have enjoyed such as two John Green books and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, to name a few. This is definitely not a bad book to pick up and experience.



Life of Pi by Yann Martel Purchase Links: BluRay DVD Digital Copy Combo Pack, Amazon Instant Video Rental, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook, Scribd ebook, the kindle and audiobook editions are free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers

Bookwise Note: the bluray combo pack is only $4.99 and is only $2 more than the rental.

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