Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Don't be jealous, but in addition to keeping up with this blog and my other blog,  I'm also in a book club.  This is not just any ol' book club, mind you.  This is an online, Facebook book club with people from my high school.  That's right, the Mundelein High School Class of 1992 is so cool we have an online book club.  I repeat: Don't be jealous.

Our first selection was Life of Pi by Yann Martel which worked out great for me. I had never read it AND I needed a book to review for this blog.  We have since moved on to The Hobbit, and there are rumors we might read 1984 next, so I'll keep you posted.  Actually, if we read 1984, I'm taking a pass.  I'd hate to scratch my eyes out twice in this lifetime as a result of reading that book.

As for my review of Life of Pi, here goes:  I liked it.  A lot.  I didn't think I would based on the synopsis, but I did.  The book is divided into three parts which served me well.  I like a story that follows a neat little chronological time line.  I am already distracted enough by children and a husband needing my attention while I am trying to read, I certainly don't need the story to jump around from the past to the present and so forth.  The first part introduces you to the main character, Pi as well as to his life in India up to age 14.  The son of a zoo owner in Pondicherry and a devout Hindu, Pi enjoys a relatively rich lifestyle.  He also adopts Christianity and Islam and tries to seek a balance between all three religions. The second part deals with his family's move to Canada from India.  The boat carrying his family and their zoo animals capsizes and everyone except Pi and a few animals drown.  What follows is the story of his grueling 227 days at sea.  The third part is the retelling of his story to the Japanese maritime department as they try to ascertain why the ship sank. Sounds bizarre, and a bit disjointed, but it it works.

So what did I like about it?  For one, the author showcases the relationship between man and beast so well, it gives you whole new perspective on a simple trip to the zoo.  I have never enjoyed the zoo.  Quite simply, I pity the animals in their cages. As the son of a zoo owner, Pi sees them in a whole different light. It is this perspective and his experiences as a child growing up in a zoo that he calls on during his ordeal at sea.

Second, was the story of survival.  I marveled at the mental, emotional and physical toughness displayed by Pi. While he didn't call on any of this three chosen religions near as much as I thought he would, he showed some major fortitude to make it through.  Impressive, even for a fictional character.

Not knowing anything about the book, let alone the ending, kept me reading.  Some of my fellow book club members claimed they could put it down for days at a time and almost forget about it. Not so for me.  I found myself quickly yet cautiously approaching the end so I could digest the outcome, whatever that may be.  Oh, and the rich symbolism throughout the book makes it excellent material for a book club.  If you're lucky enough to be in one as cool as mine, that is.

Here is what Publisher's Weekly says:
A fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (ne the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. The scenes flow together effortlessly, and the sharp observations of the young narrator keep the tale brisk and engaging. Martel's potentially unbelievable plot line soon demolishes the reader's defenses, cleverly set up by events of young Pi's life that almost naturally lead to his biggest ordeal. This richly patterned work, Martel's second novel, won Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. In it, Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master.
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