Borrowed from my local public library.
I borrowed this book because I had heard of it. "That's supposed to be good", I thought to myself. I had a vague idea that it was something about maths, pi being 3.1415... I really had no idea what it was about.
Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize 2002, that's why it had quite a bit of "buzz'. The Man Booker Prize "promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world's most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and even publishers". You can find out more about it here.
So, thinking as I did that Life of Pi was a book about mathematics, imagine my surprise when I read the blurb on the back of the book:
"After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The crew of the surviving vessel consists of a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan, a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger and Pi - a 16-year-old Indian boy. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary pieces of literary fiction of recent years..."
Not what I expected!
The book begins with an author's note, describing how a man in the Indian Coffee House in Pondicherry, India, told him the story, and encouraged him to speak to the main character, Pi Patel, in person. "I knew him very, very well. He's a grown man now. You must ask him all the questions you want." Throughout the story, the author inserts vignettes of his experiences talking with Pi. "He's an excellent cook. His overheated house is always smelling something delicious." "I am sitting in a downtown cafe, after, thinking. I have just spent most of an afternoon with him. Our encounters always leave me weary of the glum contentment that characterizes my life." "He shows me family memorabilia...There is a photo taken at the zoo...'That's Richard Parker,' he says."
With this device, the reader becomes convinced that what follows is a true story, faithfully rendered by Martel after much research. Well, that's what happened to me, anyway! And yet, I knew the book was labelled "fiction", so I knew it couldn't be true. And as the story became more and more fantastic, I struggled to let go of the idea that it was a true story. Impossible! And yet somehow, I wanted to believe.
I highly recommend this book as an intriguing vehicle for pondering the big questions of life. And the ending is quite something!