Life of Pi

I had to share this wonderful book with all of you.  I read it for my F2F (face-to-face) book club meeting next week.  It’s called Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  I have to say, I felt it dragged in a couple of spots but something made me want to keep reading.  The language was just beautiful.  I found myself marking off a lot of  passages that I want to remember.  My only complaint about the book is the way Martel describes some of the handling of the animals.  Here is a synopsis of the book…

“The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them “the truth.”   After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional–but is it more true?”

I’ve read many reviews of this book, and I have to say it seems like you either like it or hate it.  I really liked it.  If any of you have read it, please comment below and tell me how you liked (or didn’t like) it.  I have added a couple of my favorite quotes.   I hope you like them and they give you a little feel for the writing.

Pg. 31—“Just beyond the ticket booth Father had had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO?  An arrow pointed to a small curtain,  There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly.  Behind it was a mirror.”

Pg. 47—“We are all born like Catholics, aren’t we–in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God?  After that meeting the matter ends for most of us.  If there is a change, it is usually for the lesser rather than the greater; many people seem to lose God along life’s way.”

Pg. 49—I know a woman here in Toronto who is very dear to my heart.  She was my foster mother.  I call her Auntieji and she likes that.  She is Quebecoise.  Though she has lived in Toronto for over thirty years, her French-speaking mind still slips on occasion on the understanding of English sounds.  And so, when she first heard of Hare Krishnas, she didn’t hear right.  She heard “Hairless Christians,” and that is what they were to her for many years.  When I corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims.”

Pg. 62—“One other time I felt God come so close to me.  It was in Canada, much later.  I was visiting friends in the country.  It was winter.  I was out alone on a walk on their large property and returning to the house.  It was a clear, sunny day after as night of snowfall.  All nature was blanketed in white.  As I was coming up to the house, I turned my head.  There was a wood and in that wood, a small clearing.  A breeze, or perhaps it was an animal, had shaken a branch.  Fine snow was falling through the air, glittering in the sunlight.  In that falling golden dust in that sun-splashed clearing, I saw the Virgin Mary.  Why her, I don’t know.  My devotion to Mary was secondary.  But it was her.  Her skin was pale.  She was wearing a white dress and a blue cloak; I remember being struck by their pleats and folds.  When I say I saw her, I don’t quite mean it literally, though she did have body and colour.  I felt I saw her, a vision beyond vision.  I stopped and squinted.  She looked beautiful and supremely regal.  She was smiling at me with loving kindness.  After some seconds she left me.  My heart beat with fear and joy.  The presence of God is the finest of rewards.”

Pg. 73—“I don’t see why I can’t be all three.  Mamaji has two passports.  He’s Indian and French.  Why can’t I be a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim?”
Pg.  97—“Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu…”

Pg. 142—“A sense of well-being quickly came over me.  My mouth became moist and soft.  I forgot about the back of my throat.  My skin relaxed.  My joints moved with greater ease.  My heart began to beat like a merry drum and blood started flowing through my veins like cards from a wedding party honking their way through town.  Strength and suppleness came back to my muscles.  My head became clearer.  Truly, I was coming back to life from the dead.  It was glorious, it was glorious.  I tell you, to be drunk on alcohol is disgraceful, but to be drunk on water is noble and ecstatic.”

Pg. 207—“My greatest wish–other than salvation–was to have a book.  A long book with a never-ending story.  One I could read again and again, with new eyes and a fresh understanding each time.  Alas, there was no scripture in the lifeboat.”


One thought on “Life of Pi

  1. I’m so glad you liked it! You’re right that the language was beautiful – Martel has such a wonderful way with words. I didn’t mind the parts where it seemed to drag, because it made me feel like Pi must have felt on the boat. Even though I’ve read it many times before, I found a different ending this time. I can’t wait to discuss next week!

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