I’ll start this review with an alert – the movie of this book is scheduled to hit theaters on November 21 of this year, and it looks like it could generate some pretty good critical buzz, and maybe even a few awards. You might want to get a jump on the book.
Pi is a young Indian boy whose father operates a zoo, and whose appreciation of both animals (of all types) and religion (also of all types) guides much of his thinking. A mild ripple of the political backdrop of India in the 70s informs the events that lead to Pi’s family leaving India, bound for Canada.
In the initial section of the book, that introduces the family and the situation of the story, I found myself questioning the direction of the book. Upon the emigration of the family, however, the book opens up into a breathtaking examination of survival, human nature, and determination. One cannot help but root for Pi, whose innermost thoughts are presented as nakedly as possible.
Martel cautiously pieces together the tale, which manages to overwhelm and strike notes of normalcy at the same time. By the end, I was happy to realize just how vital the opening chapters were in establishing the mood and direction the story takes; Martel’s craft is fully on display as even minor passages are recalled during the book’s incredible conclusion.
This is, put simply, one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure to read. In fact, I am looking forward to rereading it before too long. I was particularly taken with Martel’s propensity for carefully constructed descriptions of nature, and for the earnest discussion of religions – many of them – as elements of our lives. But most of all, I was on board with Pi, and his enthusiasm for the world he inhabits, even in the face of incredible circumstances.