|I remember when my IB English teacher mentioned she was going to teach Life of Pi to another one of her classes. I wondered what it was. When I learned it was more of an introspective book about a shipwrecked Indian boy, I knew she would love teaching it. My teacher loved Buddhist and Hindu philosophies and had recently just taught my class Siddhartha. I was determined to read it because friends of mine and my English teacher liked it.
That was 2008.
When I heard the movie Life of Pi was coming out this year, I realized I still hadn’t read the book, and probably should, with all the positive attention it was getting (and not like the fanaticism the Twilight series got. Just so you know, I am not a Twilight fan at all!).
Introspective, reflective books aren’t necessarily my favorites. I love fantasy and historical fiction because they are full of intrigue, magic, and adventure. Life of Pi is most definitely not that. I did enjoy the first part, though, when Pi was describing his childhood and his introductions with religion. For some reason, I just kept thinking of Kite Runner in how others around him affected his philosophy on life. I do like that Pi argues you can belong to more than one religion. In my eyes, different religions have wonderful, beautiful themes about them. As you could tell with my review of The Secret History of the World, I do truly believe all religions are connected with each other, so it would make sense that Pi would see the logic in being a Hindu, Christian, and Muslim all at the same time.
However, where my problem lay is that the main plot of the book is his survival on a life boat. It seemed too Robinson Crusoe for me and I hated that book. That is one thing I typically don’t like about survival stories, no matter what length, no matter what audience. They are all typically the same:
“Today I did inventory of my supplies. I have ## of this, ## of that, and ## of these.”
“I fished and was able to get a fish after hours of trying.”
“I tried a new food I never thought I’d eat, but I’m starving, so I have to.”
“My life was almost ended today because of ____ but I was saved from death for some unknown reasons to me.”
“I miss my life and my family.”
It’s a little repetitive and boring to me. I liked his interaction a lot more with Richard Parker and his attempts to train the tiger, than I did Pi recounting what he did to survive. It was a very slow-paced book, but at the same time, an easy, quick read.
I did really like the end, when the two Japanese workers came to interview Pi. They wanted a “real” story, and Pi gave them a parallel story with human survivors rather than animals. Almost immediately after the first paragraph, I was able to identify each human survivor with the animal and realized, it may or may not have been true, and Pi may or may not have envisioned this alternate reality to deal with all the trauma he’d been through. I really, really liked that. Then, after his story ended, the Japanese talked among themselves and explained the whole parallelism to us. I was able to figure it out on my own–it wasn’t that hard. I don’t think it was needed to spell it out for us.
Over all, I’d give the book a 3.5 out of 5.
The day I finished the book, I immediately rented the movie. My family had seen the movie, although they hadn’t read the book, and they had good things to say about the movie. I also heard it was a beautiful movie.
It was true: the movie cinematography was beautiful. I was astounded–each scene was like a painting. But, that kind of reflects Pi’s view of the world and the events he was a part of. However, beautiful as it was, the CG stood apart, and it bothered me a bit, especially when it came to the animals. The acting wasn’t that great either (but I do think adult Pi did a good job).
I also wish they had shown when Pi was blind and his conversation with the other blind castaway he runs into. I also wished we had seen the other reality of the story, with the human survivors. Not necessarily all the bloodshed of it, but just some visuals would have been nice, rather than just slowly zooming into Pi’s face as he told the story.
Overall, I’d give the movie a 2.5 out of 5.