If somebody told me a week ago I would read a story about a shipwrecked Indian boy who survives for the better part of a year on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger, and that I would believe every word, I would have ridiculed the idea. Obviously loads of other people besides me also loved this book, as Life of Pi by Yann Martel won the Man Booker Prize.
The story is told by Pi, a boy who lives with his parents and older brother in Pondicherry, India. Pi’s father kept a zoo in Pondicherry, with orang-utans, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, birds, bears, tigers, lions and other exotic animals.
Pi is an unusually bright child, who is interested and drawn to the three religions which dominate in his home town, and eventually he becomes a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim, all at the same time.
The story moves along quite slowly in the beginning, and follows Pi’s life as he goes to school, learns to swim with a family friend and is tormented by his brother. No doubt Pi leads a similar life to most children, apart from his interest in religion and the family’s zoo.
However, when Pi’s family decide to sell the zoo and move to Canada, the plot speeds up enormously. They travel on a cargo ship, along with many of the animals from their zoo and other animals to sell. When their ship is wrecked on the Pacific Ocean, Pi is thrown into a lifeboat along with a zebra with a broken leg, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Later, an Orang-utan named Orange Juice finds its way to the lifeboat also. At this point I would probably have jumped overboard and let the sharks eat me, but Pi is much braver and far more resourceful than me.
The language in Life of Pi is wonderful. I felt as if I experienced Pi’s emotions with him, particularly those he felt while in the lifeboat. His (and my) experiences included fear, panic, hunger, seasickness, occasional joy, and worst of all, constant thirst.
This is a book which should be read and enjoyed without the plot being spoiled by reading someone else’s review, so if you haven’t already read Life of Pi, I strongly recommend you do so. I can’t wait to read more by this author, particularly The High Mountains of Portugal which has been on my list for a while, and to watch the movie Life of Pi.