'It's a closely held secret among Indian zookeepers that in 1971 Bara the polar bear escaped from the Calcutta Zoo. She was never heard from again...'
It may seem strange to be reviewing a book first published in 2001 that then went on to win the Man Booker Prize. But strange is what I do, and besides I hadn't read it until now so guess that may also be the case with some of you at least. Anyway, a damn good read never goes stale does it?
Life of Pi came to me the way books of old used to, when my school pals and I, mainly my fellow bookworms Chris, Derek & Bruce, would swap books with each other and have heated breaktime discussions as to their merit or otherwise. Such was how I discovered Catch 22, The Godfather and the brilliant Tom Sharpe novels amongst countless others. Great days indeed. This time my eldest daughter handed me a dog-eared copy and said, 'Dad. You'll love this.'
I haven't watched the film, and I suspect many of you haven't either. Being honest the trailer left me cold, the premise seemed ridiculous, and I'm no particular fan of CGI. Well, I'm going to damn well watch it now because the book is brilliant, dare I say it a work of genius. If heading away on holiday grab a copy. If like me you become instantly addicted it may last 3 or 4 days so grab something else too.
Yann Martel weaves such magic into this tale that belief does not have to be suspended. This reader was hooked by the end of page 1. The prose is light, amusing, insightful and downright entertaining from start to finish. That Pi is an abbreviation of 'Piscine', as the central character was named after a swimming pool in France, the Piscine Militor, is a sheer delight. Pi is the outsider, the misfit, the eccentric, a believer in all religions and none, an everyman and a nobody. In short he's a brilliant hero and narrator, although as we discover in relation to the latter quite possibly a highly unreliable one.
Life of Pi is a book for everyone, I'd happily recommend it to a 10-year old as much as a discerning adult reader. I'm not going to go into the plot or bore you with endless quotes and reasons to read it. I'll simply steals my daughter's words instead, 'You'll love it', or I'm a Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker...
Bookworm Rating - 4 out of 5