Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Life of Pi - Yann Martel (Audio)


The Life of Pi has had a life of its own since its release in 2001. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2002, has been considered for a film adaptation by various directors (ultimately will be directed by Ang Lee and released in 3D in 2011), and has been a featured read in thousands of book clubs. With Martel's recent release of Beatrice and Virgil, interest in Pi has been renewed - Barnes & Noble was actually sold out a couple of weeks ago. I originally read this book in 2002 and enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised when my book club chose it as the May read, and decided to give it a try on audio this go around.

Even though it feels like half the world has already read this book, I won't assume anything. The story is one about a boy named Pi Patel. He recounts the story of his life in India, one that was primarily spent around the zoo which his parents owned and ran. Pi also took an early interest in religions, and because of his love of all Gods, ultimately practiced Muslim, Hindu and Christianity simultaneously. Due to political unrest, Pi's family sells the zoo, and with some of their animals, boarded a cargo ship for Canada. The ship sinks en route, and Pi spends 227 days on a life raft, fighting to survive.

This is when the story takes a surreal turn. Pi tells about how a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker, were also on the boat with him. Not a compatible group, you might say. After the circle of life applies itself, Pi is left to co-exist with the tiger, catching fish and turtles and rainwater to survive. He briefly stops at an uninhabited, toxic island, before he eventually finds himself on a beach in Mexico. Richard Parker disembarks, never to be seen again. Investigators don't buy the story, so Pi tells them another, more disturbing one. We are left to choose which one we believe and prefer.

There are endearing aspects of the book that all came back to me as I listened to the story unfold. Pi is an alluring character, a kid like no other - precocious, intelligent, bright-eyed. I found his innocent embrace of all Gods and faith in higher powers enchanting. Being an animal-lover, I was also entertained by the details of animal behavior. This is not a fast-paced story however. It is very slow and deliberate, and I began to feel restless. I know how it ends, after all. Because I was aware of the "twist" at the conclusion of the book, I found myself adrift (pun sorta intended!). It did allow me to analyze the story with a different perspective, but it wasn't enough to keep me engaged.

As you all know, I am a walking endorsement for audio books. But this is not one I would recommend. The narrator had a pleasant Indian accent, and seemed to do his best with the prose, but it was not one that translated well to the ears. I will be in line when the movie premiers, however, with high expectations from a director like Lee.

Unfortunately, because my husband was out of town, I was unable to attend the book club to discuss Pi. This is the first book club I've missed since I began attending, and I'm sorry it had to be this one. The discussions would have been interesting!

First time reading: 4 out of 5

Second time reading: 3 out of 5


24 comments:

Melody said...

Can you believe that I haven't read this one, yet?! Need to remedy that so onto the wishlist it goes!

Alice Teh said...

I loved this book! I read it a few years ago. One of the best and most imaginative. :D

diaryofaneccentric said...

I haven't read this one yet. Actually, until reading your review I wasn't sure I even wanted to. I don't think I'll go the audio route, though.

Lauren said...

I must say, at first I thought the book was a bit dull, but as I got going, I really enjoyed it. I especially loved the ending, which has such an interesting message. How would we rather see things - magical or realistic? Great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This is a book I could probably also use a second reading of. I remember being shocked by the ending, but it's sort of like Sixth Sense - you feel like you need to go back and see if you pick up clues beforehand.

S. Krishna said...

I didn't love this book, but I was hoping to re-listen on audio to see if it appealed to me more that way. After your review, I'm rethinking that!

Serena said...

I still have this book to read...but not on audio. I think if I do read it, I will use the physical book. You have good instincts about audiobooks.

bermudaonion said...

I'm one of the few who didn't love this book - I just wasn't crazy about the ending.

Zibilee said...

I loved this book and really want to do a reread now that I know the twist ending. I thought it was unforgettable and it has really stayed with me after all these years. I also want to read Beatrice and Virgil, though I have heard it is even more surreal than Pi. Great review, Sandy. I am sorry that the narrator didn't work for you though!

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

When you started this review I was thinking, "oooh, audio reread, maybe?" Glad that you let me know that the narrator wasn't spectacular, I'll stick to the other audios that in my queue.

Heather said...

I haven't read this one, but I read Beatrice and Virgil and was one of the readers not too impressed by it. I did like some of his writing style, so I was thinking of going back and reading this one. Maybe I'll listen instead!

ds said...

I love this book! It became everybody's Christmas present a few years ago. I suspect that, because of its pace--as you point out--that it is a better reading than listening experience.

Ang Lee? 3-D?? Interesting...

ngeunit1 said...

I had to read this for an old high school summer reading assignment and thought it was going to be painful. But instead I treally enjoyed it. Was thinking about a second read through.

Ti said...

I did not like Pi when it first came out. I abandoned it, actually. BUT, I liked Beatrice & Virgil so I am thinking I will go back and give Pi another shot.

Plus, I heard Martel speak about Pi at the Festival of Books and he made it sound so wonderfully brilliant.

The Bumbles said...

This one has been on my list for a few years now. I figure since I missed the first wave altogether, there's no point rushing it up to the top now! I enjoy quirky reads that you need to spend time with so when I have the right mood I look forward to diving into this one.

Jeane said...

I really enjoyed the book. The ending threw me though- it was totally unexpected and I still don't know which premise to believe- was there really a tiger in the boat? or something else going on?

farmlanebooks said...

I'm sorry to hear that this book didn't improve on re-reading. I can imagine that I'd find the same problems, which is why I'm not going to attempt a re-read. Some books are best left alone :-)

Iliana said...

This is one of those books everyone but me seems to have read! I'm sorry you missed out on your book club. I hate it when that happens! Ah well, what are you reading next month?

Kathy said...

I, too, read this for Book Club several years ago. I found it to be a stick-with-you book. Were you able to pick which story you thought was the true one? Because, as I recall, I found myself half-doubting and half-believing both stories.

Kathleen said...

I guess I'm one of the only people left who haven't read this book. I'd like to read this one first since his second had such mixed (and mostly negative) reviews.

caite said...

Half the world may have read it, but I was not one of them.
And not sure I will be, since I am not sure it is my cuppa tea.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I finally got a copy of this book last week. I thought I was the only person who hadn't read it yet.....I got the paper version because at the rate I go through audio books, I might not get to it for another five years, lol.

Jenners said...

I do think knowing the twist would make it a harder read the second time around. The book was actually a slow read in many ways UNTIL the end ... then it woke me up and seemed better than it had been up until that point. Like the whole section with the weird island ... i could have done without that.

s said...

I loved this book..stunning imagination very impressive.