An exchange of comments with Marjorie from Paper Tigers reminded of the old review I wrote of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi over at 20 More Things. I read the book around March this year. I have mixed feelings about the book, but here’s the old review:
Yann Martel’s Life of Pi was something I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time now. The book opens up with the author introducing how he first heard about Pi and the meetings to follow. The author takes notes as Piscine supposedly narrates his story. However, the book is written in the first perspective, which makes it more intimate for the reader.
Though the selling point of the book is the stranded boy sharing a life boat with a tiger, it wasn’t that part of the book that I enjoyed. It was rather the first part of the book that swept me off my feet in its narration, humor, observation, and passion.
The first book speaks of zoology and religion juxtaposed with each other. It somehow lays the present Piscine in connection to his childhood and experience as a sole survivor of a shipwreck. The discussion of zoology offers much insight to the interaction of man and animal. In these first narrations, I felt very much part of the animal kingdom as any other animal. Whether or not the zoological narrations are accurate and true is something I am unsure of.
What drew me in was Piscine’s search for religion/God. As his father would ask, “how could you be Hindu, Catholic and Muslim all at the same time?” As overwhelming this reality was to Piscine’s parents and to his teacher, so was its impossibility mind boggling to Piscine. The simplicity of the response made me nod in agreement: Because I love God.
Some might find the ecumenical attempts of this book to be insulting, but I found that it had depth. In the end, the issue was not religion, but faith. Religion to Pi was only a means to love God. It didn’t matter if he practiced three different religions—he was faithful. He prayed in earnest and was devout to all his religions. The book claims, at the beginning, that Pi’s story would make you believe in the existence of God. As wondrous as the events on the Life Boat, it seemed that didn’t make me believe in God any more or less. Though it undeniably reiterates the idea of miracles and that there is a God; it was Pi’s dedication to loving God that was the book’s thesis.
To me, the book ended with a thud, but then again I had a bias for the first part of the book and felt I wanted the same sort of narration and content in the ending. However, as most books that can make us think, consider and digest ideas we wouldn’t normally encounter, this book is worth reading. If you do read it, tell me: Did it make you believe in God?
Note: The author has recently released a new book called Beatrice and Virgil. I’ll soon get myself a copy and review it here.