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Life of Pi—Book review

Life of Pi by Yann Martel Nine years ago, Yann Martel published what was to become a fiction bestseller about a multi-religious boy stranded in a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger.


Well, it sounded quite ridiculous to me. But the book’s reputation pulled me in to at least taste the first few pages. . .

This book was born as I was hungry. Let me explain.

And the more he explained, the more I hungered for what was next. And to know how it would end.

Parts of the story grew a tad tedious with details, but overall the storyteller kept my interest, blending paragraphs like this among the more active ones:

I believe it was this that saved my life that morning, that I was quite literally dying of thirst. Now that the word had popped into my head I couldn’t think of anything else, as if the world itself were salty and the more I thought of it, the worse the effect. I have heard that the hunger for air exceeds as a compelling sensation the thirst for water. Only for a few minutes, I say. After a few minutes you die and the discomfort of asphyxiation goes away. Whereas thirst is a drawn-out affair. Look: Christ on the Cross died of suffocation, but His only complaint was of thirst. If thirst can be so taxing that even God Incarnate complains about it, imagine the effect on a regular human. It was enough to make me go raving mad. I have never known a worse physical hell than this putrid taste and pasty feeling in the mouth, this unbearable pressure at the back of the throat, this sensation that my blood was turning to a thick syrup that barely flowed. Truly, by comparison, a tiger was nothing.    (page 135)

And this:

I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakened, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread.  (page 161)

The vocabulary was rich (keep a dictionary handy); the characters (including animals) were intriguing; the hero was an ordinary one-of-us.

Would I read it again?
Probably not.

But am I glad I read it at least once?

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