Life of Pi

I finished reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi today.

Probably the quickest I’ve read a book since I moved out West, in large part because I’m working on actually dedicating time to reading and not simply reading during the breaks in court.

It was an interesting read. And a lot easier to get into than some of the other books I’ve read recently had been. Not that I use that fact as a determining factor whether I will like the book or not. Anyway, on to my thoughts.

On the whole, I liked it. Although, the way it opened, I kept wondering how much of the story was a work of fiction and how much was based on real events. There were things written that made me think there was a nugget of truth in the tale. Be that as it may, there were also many things that simply stretched the limits of credulity. But I’ll get to that later.

I really enjoyed the explanation of how a zoo runs. Taking an adults view of a zoo, but through the eyes of a child really made the experience more enlightening than had it been written as if it were a how-to on running a zoo.

But my biggest beef with the story, and it’s a theme I have hit on in my comments on a lot of books is the rampant religiosity of the protagonist. Can we not have a story of survival and adventure that doesn’t include a need to bring in an omniscient being to which the protagonist attributes his/her survival?

I mean, on the one hand, I had no problem that Pi was experimenting with religions in his youth, prior to ending up alone with a tiger. Young people tend to experiment; it’s how they learn.

It just bothers me.

Now, when it comes to parts of the story that really pushed the boundaries of credulity, it was the algae ‘island’ with the meerkats. I can wrap my head around ending up on a boat alone with a tiger. Seeing as the reason Pi gets stranded on the lifeboat is that a ship carrying zoo animals sank, I can see how it is possible a tiger could end up on a boat.

And along that same vein, I can see the human and tiger co-existing.

An ‘island’ made of algae complete with fresh-water pools, trees and meerkats? That’s pushing what I’m willing to believe, even if the story is a work of fiction. If the story were constructed as a fantasy, I could be more forgiving of what appeared as a blatant ploy to add something new. And the algae turns acidic at night? Yeah, not buying it.

But one thing near the end really got me thinking. I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t read it, but the final part of the book really made me wonder what Pi truly experienced. He’s interviewed by Japanese officials investigating the sinking of the ship he was on, and he says some things that, when thinking about them, make you wonder whether the butler did it. If you catch my drift.

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