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September 07, 2005

Rohit Reviews: Life of Pi

Life of Pi, the international bestseller by Yann Martel, first came into my sights a few years back when someone I knew recommended it to me as the book that would make me re-evaluate religion. My own religious views aside, that statement is a very powerful one and I was immediately intrigued by the novel. However, classes and work always occupied my time over the last few years, and moreover, I prefer the classic to the contemporary, so it was only now that I actually had a chance to pick up a copy and get through it. Did it make me re-evaluate religion? Not really. Was it an amazing novel? Absolutely.

One of the most fundamental problems about books that are received well critically, in my opinion, is the hype that surrounds them and the inevitable let down that awaits at the turning of the last page. This is exactly the same reason I have yet to read Da Vinci Code, despite countless tirades by my friends on how my life is incomplete until I do. With Life of Pi, my expectations were fairly high, and so when I picked it up as reading material for my flight to San Francisco from Atlanta for Labor Day weekend, I found myself troubled by the rather slow start of the novel that spoke more passionately about zoos than profoundly about religion. By the end of the flight, I was about two-thirds of the way through, and more interested, but still unconvinced about reality matching the hype.

The last third, on the flight from San Francisco back to Atlanta, proved to be crucial in mitigating my skepticism. I had delved into the novel with a kind of faith that I have grown accustomed to giving the authors of books I read—an unwavering trust in the validity of the author's statements. The last five chapters rocked this trust and forced me to reconsider all I had read in a completely different perspective, a feat not usually accomplished by most authors. In fact, the ending left me almost as impressed as when I completed One Hundred Years of Solitude, probably one of my all-time favorite novels.

Life of Pi is an adroit mix of adventure and despair, excitement and desolation, love and fear, throughout which the reader is forced to confront the nature of faith and belief. Also, unlike most great novels, its a fairly easy read—300 pages of relatively straightforward prose that I was able to finish in just over four hours. I would highly recommend to anyone and everyone, if for nothing else I have mentioned, than as a great piece of contemporary fiction. I'll leave you all with a passage that struck me as particularly relevant to my own life in the last few months:

What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape ... It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.

Overall, 4/5 stars. Go out and read this book!


You mean you liked the acid island with the lemurs? The last third of the book was messed up!

Well, the last third was definitely entertaining, although definitely a trip that I am not going to even attempt to reconcile with reality or analyze. I think what really made me like the novel was the last Book, with his interview. It changes everything.

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