All right, let me just say it right away, this is a horrible story. Not a horrible book, but yes, a horrible story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, a lot, but after you’ve read the whole book, you’ll find yourself saying those words too.
Where to begin my review on this book? The author touches upon so many philosophical and religious issues, all of which he naturally and effortlessly envelops within the safe cocoon of quite an unbelievable story that nears ‘awesomeness’, that I find it hard to deliver one, wholesome and logic review.
But I guess, if I absolutely had to summarize my thoughts in a simple idea or word, it would be ‘belief’. This book is about believing, or finding your belief, whether it be about the existence of God, the belief in one specific religion, or, last of all, the belief in Pi’s incredible story. Because, what it all comes down to in our life is what we choose to believe in. We often, irrationally enough, choose to create and hold on to certain beliefs, when some facts may clearly tell us that that particular belief does not make much sense. It’s our coping mechanism, in our daily life that is filled with inexplicable events. Whether we find someone or something to blame for or to be thankful for, the simple fact and act of doing so allows us to sleep at night and dream of another tomorrow. Sure, Pi’s story about being the sole survivor in a ship wreck, and spending 227 days in the vast ocean, with only a Bengal tiger to keep him company is probably not what most of us will experience, in this lifetime or the other. However, like most of this book, it’s all about symbolism. After all, are we not often faced with the feeling that we’re alone, lost in the vast ocean that is life, with only dangers lurking ahead that threaten our very existence? Yet, do we not learn how to cope with things, each in our own way?
Yann Martel does a wonderful job keeping us hooked to the story through the 300 or so pages (the entire book is about 400 pages, but I found myself clearly mesmerized by it only after a certain number of pages). Pi’s story is certainly incredible, yet somehow I couldn’t shake off that feeling that well, it might actually be true. Fortunately, the whole ‘it’s a horrible story’ part doesn’t come until the last 10 pages or so, so you’ll enjoy the detailed descriptions (although I did have a hard time picturing the lifeboat in my head), the meticulous ways of how to domesticate animals, the surprising zoological facts and the unimaginable facts of Pi’s adventure for some time.
Finally, I would like to end the review by quoting this passage, which, considering how I find the book is about ‘belief’, summarizes it well.
“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation”
(which, on another note, forces me to decide on God’s existence, which, frankly, bothered me throughout the whole book and made me look back on my personal set of beliefs)