By: Yann Martel
Date Finished: 02.17.12
“A boy of many faiths. A 450-pound Bengal tiger. A shipwreck. A lifeboat. The Pacific Ocean.” That is the full description on the back of the book. Word of mouth speaks favorably of the book, so I suppose there’s not much more to be said.
I’d say Life of Pi has been romanticized (and understandably so) where most people have forgotten the experience of reading this book. For a long time I worried that I would reach the last page and not know where the exposition had stopped. Then, like flipping a switch, the story began. And the actual boy-tiger-shipwreck-lifeboat-ocean story was a pretty good one. To be fair, I was grateful for a degree of the background information, but it takes resolve to make it through the slow opening. In contrast, the last page did not provide much of an ending. The front cover features a quote from the San Francisco Chronicle that says, “It’s difficult to stop reading when the pages run out.” In the early days of my reading, I scoffed at the idea, but it’s true. Nothing about the last lines feel final.
Other than the dragging exposition and the abrupt ending, I truly enjoyed the writing . Pi’s voice is distinctive and comfortable to listen to. His storytelling is just the right mixture of linear antidotes and leaps from one thought to another. I loved the way the chapters are laid out — a patternless cadence of short, moderate, and very long chapters. My favorite is “CHAPTER 97 The story.” Only one other chapter is a single sentence, a thought outside the immediate situation, yet vitally important — it is the most profound chapter in the book. This unsteady rhythm and the shifts in subjects kept me engaged in the story.
Is it possible for pacing to both kill and save a book?
Reading this, I discovered that I don’t care much for survival stories. Give me magic, fantastical beasts, or even a useless fairy. If nothing else, give me a nice mystery with funny and/or clever people. But the necessary components of a survival story — particularly the alone-ness of the protagonist and the monotony of the circumstances — simply do not appeal to me.
At the end of the day: A one-time read