Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: Life of Pi

I've been meaning to read Life of Pi for more than ten years. I was first introduced to this book during my freshman year of college, when I caught my surfer roommate, who wasn't much of a reader, devouring it one week in the spring. I asked him what it was about. He told me it was about a boy and a tiger trying to survive on a ship in the middle of the ocean. It sounded intriguing. But then I picked up one of the Harry Potter books again, and forgot about it. What's the best way to get a book in my hands and make me read it? Even ten years later? Make a movie adaptation! With a new major film coming out at the end of the month, directed by the master Ang Lee of all people, I knew I had to check out the book beforehand. I found a pristine, super low priced copy of the book at Grassroots (the best independent bookstore in Reno) and finally took a crack at it.

There are three sections to the book, and the best, by far, is the second. The first section ebbs and flows in its ability to engage. My favorite part of the first hundred pages was the zoo material, especially the hilarious scene when Pi's father mercilessly teaches his children why it's important not to pet the tigers. Once young Pi is stranded on the boat, with only a few random, potentially dangerous animals on board to keep him company, the book really takes off, and it's this section that was the real stunner for me. The details surrounding the gore, the pain, the will to live, nearly stop your heart, and the way Pi slowly, over the course of many weeks, develops a friendship with the tiger, is stunning. How did Martel think of an idea like this? It's brilliant, and executed extremely well. You as the reader get inside Pi's head as he tries to survive, and you try to imagine what you would do in such a terrifying situation. (I probably would've just fainted and been eaten, but that's me.)

I'm super excited to see how this story is brought to life on the big screen. It was for years deemed unfilmable, and many directors have tried to tackle the material. Leave it to Ang Lee, one of our most eclectic and surprising directors, to take on this beautiful story. The film opens next week, and look here in the coming days for a review. I can't wait!

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