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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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Anyone who would like to get hold of a copy of this book and join in the circle - there are quite a few copies available at

Green Metropolis

 





The Reading Circle choice for January is Life of Pi by Yann Martel:


Some books defy categorisation: Life of Pi, the second novel from Canadian writer Yann Martel, is a case in point: just about the only thing you can say for certain about it is that it is fiercely and admirably unique. The plot, if that’s the right word, concerns the oceanic wanderings of a lost boy, the young and eager Piscine Patel of the title (Pi). After a colourful and loving upbringing in gorgeously-hued India, the Muslim-Christian-animistic Pi sets off for a fresh start in Canada. His blissful voyage is rudely interrupted when his boat is scuppered halfway across the Pacific, and he is forced to rough it in a lifeboat with a hyena, a monkey, a whingeing zebra and a tiger called Richard. That would be bad enough, but from here on things get weirder: the animals start slaughtering each other in a veritable frenzy of allegorical bloodlust, until Richard the tiger and Pi are left alone to wander the wastes of ocean, with plenty of time to ponder their fate, the cruelty of the gods, the best way to handle storms and the various different recipes for oothappam, scrapple and coconut yam kootu. The denouement is pleasantly neat. According to the blurb, thirtysomething Yann Martel spent long years in Alaska, India, Mexico, France, Costa Rica, Turkey and Iran, before settling in Canada. All those cultures and more have been poured into this spicy, vivacious, kinetic and very entertaining fiction.

 

Some questions to consider:

1- Who was your favourite character and why?

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

5- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

(You do not have to answer all, or indeed, any, of these questions, they are meant only as points for you to perhaps mull over as you read, and provoke more discussion. Please feel free to ask and answer any questions that come up as you read.)

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I am afraid I was very disappointed with Life of Pi. I was really looking forward to reading this after all of the praise and prizes it has been given over the past few years, but on finishing the final page I realised that this was not the book for me.

 

Part One seemed to be a bit of a slow start, but I stuck with it with the assumption that it would pick up pace and interest along the way. Sadly, or rather, annoyingly, it never really picked up at all.

 

I did not like any of the characters, especially Pi. I did not feel any sympathy for him, nor did I even care about him in the situation he was in or....

whether he would survive at all (even though I knew he did from the beginning, although I wish he hadn't as it would have saved time)

. I found the whole story to be rather tedious, especially......

the numerous descriptions of him catching fish and page after page of repeated examples of the limited number of things that Pi could do or see whilst on the boat/raft

. The ending was not too bad when compared to the 300 pages I had just read. Even so, it did not turn the book into an enjoyable read, nor did those last few pages make all of the lifeless story I had spent time reading particularly worthwhile.

 

In a way, I am glad I have read it, as I probably would have gone along with all the hype it has received and assumed it to be a terrific piece of writing, and not have known that (in my opinion) it was a load of tripe. As I said in another thread, it may be one of those book that I will appreciate and enjoy more on a second read of it, but I will not be in a hurry to do that, nor will I be rushing to read another book by Martel.

 

I am looking forward to hearing the thoughts from those who enjoyed the book, though, as I know lots of people have.

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Life of Pi really, really annoyed me.

 

- Don't highlight this unless you've read the book, and unless you want to read a whinge about the whole thing -

 

 

 

I have no real understanding why it's so popular, unless people are obsessed by blathering on about faith, and the focus on why believing is so important.

 

The opening section was unutterably tedious. The middle section was kind of interesting and fun, to be honest. But it was then ruined by the idiotic ending that told you it was all basically a lie but that it was good lie because believing the better story is better than having a dour, unspiritual life which has no colour or vibrancy. It's just a pile of :friends0:. The ending had me wanting to rip the book to shreds.

 

The opening section is necessary, of course, to lay the groundwork for all the nonsense about faith at the end.

 

The play with colours is important - the green for Islam on the island, the orange for Hindism in the lifejackets and things, the white of the boat for Christianity, the idea that he needs all three colours, all three thing to keep him alive. But it's just clever-clever nonsense in the middle of a stupid book.

 

God, it annoyed me.

 

 

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How can you read this book and not love Pi?

I read this book originally because it meant I could use the super Contemporary Novel coursework title I cooked up: Compare how the authors of 'Life of Pi' and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' convey the concept and perception of reality. AND as an added bonus, I could slip in the phrase 'time as a linear concept', so I sounded smart.

 

Pi had me in with the first sentence 'My suffering made me sad and gloomy' . Look it over again and just realize how confiding and revealing the phrase is. Sad and gloomy are synonyms, so you have the effect of repetition. Suffering is a very harsh and emotional word, where as gloomy is only a word you would use when speaking to a friend. Thus, I loved Pi at the first sentence.

 

I Love how sarcastic and witty Pi can be whilst at the same time I think you really understand the suffering Pi is going through.

 

Did you notice that in the first section of the book Pi appears to be speaking as an older man and slowly lapses back into the little boy he was, and how in the second section you get the impression of real time?

 

I don't know about you, but it really didn't occur to me until the very end of the book that Pi might be telling porkers. The passion behind the narrative voice drives the suspicion away. [[Realising I sound like a pompous git showing off]]

 

Anyway, reading the book was an enjoyable experience, I found all the characters relevant and intriguing and the only bit that really confused me was

the carnivorous island, which I can't make heads or tails of

.

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Hmm, maybe I should have read the other comments first. I mean no disrespect, I can understand why a lot of people wouldn't like the book. I like marmite, too. This is why I like other peoples opinions though-- even though Freewheeling Andy doesn't actually like the book, the colour comment he put was actually very useful to me. (Thanks)

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I found a lot of humour in Life of Pi. I actually particularly liked the twist at the end too. I thin kI was particularly surprised, though, as my sister, who doesn't read at all (or didn't prior to this book!) recommended it to me as she had enjoyed it so much!

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I enjoyed this book - but not to the extent where I'd recommend it to everyone I know! It's a different kind of story - so it tends to leave some sort of impression, I guess. Would have preferred a different ending though.....

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1- Who was your favourite character and why?

Richard Parker! I didn't click right away who Richard Parker was (when Pi is first speaking to him), so when it finally dawned on me (at the point where Pi really changes his mind about wanting him on the boat!), I was in histerics! As a character, there's not really much you can say about Richard Parker - it's more his constant presence and the dangerous possibilities he poses that are integral to the plot.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I wasn't fond of the part on the island - at that point, the story really veered off into total fantasy for a while and I started glossing over it a bit in order to get back to the rest of the story.

 

3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I'd never even heard of Yann Martel before I was loaned Life of Pi by my non-reading sister. yup - I'd managed to miss all the hype connected to it and so had no real expectations (which is always nice). I've not yet read anything more by Martel, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at trying anything else he writes.

 

4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

Not really - just the weirdness of the island a little, but mostly I just took it at face value and enjoyed the humour behind it all. It started out a little slow with the introduction of Pi and his family, but once I got into it, I was glad it had been written that way.

 

5- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Yes. I found it very humourous and loved the final twist. It was also a nice surprise to be recommended something by my sister who hadn't picked up a book since school before this one! Since then whe's been reading more and more often and we've loaned each other more books as a result of it... :friends0:

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By the way, and I really don't know if this is relevent to the book and the name, there was a famous Richard Parker who was leader of the Nore Rebellion. The sailors of the Royal Navy finally had enough of the shocking conditions they were kept in, and mutinied, leading to the creation of a minor floating republic, slightly sympathetic to the French. There may be a metaphor in there for the tiger on the boat.

 

But it's a fairly obscure reference, and Yann Martel may not have known about him and it could be coincidence.

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1- Who was your favourite character and why?

Richard Parker! I didn't click right away who Richard Parker was (when Pi is first speaking to him), so when it finally dawned on me (at the point where Pi really changes his mind about wanting him on the boat!), I was in histerics! As a character, there's not really much you can say about Richard Parker - it's more his constant presence and the dangerous possibilities he poses that are integral to the plot.

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I wasn't fond of the part on the island - at that point, the story really veered off into total fantasy for a while and I started glossing over it a bit in order to get back to the rest of the story.

 

3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I'd never even heard of Yann Martel before I was loaned Life of Pi by my non-reading sister. yup - I'd managed to miss all the hype connected to it and so had no real expectations (which is always nice). I've not yet read anything more by Martel, but I wouldn't turn my nose up at trying anything else he writes.

 

4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

Not really - just the weirdness of the island a little, but mostly I just took it at face value and enjoyed the humour behind it all. It started out a little slow with the introduction of Pi and his family, but once I got into it, I was glad it had been written that way.

 

5- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Yes. I found it very humourous and loved the final twist. It was also a nice surprise to be recommended something by my sister who hadn't picked up a book since school before this one! Since then whe's been reading more and more often and we've loaned each other more books as a result of it... ;)

 

That's almost exactly the same way I feel about it. Apart from not knowing your sister of course :lol:

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Well I have just started this, about 5 or 6 chapters in and so far so good. I haven't decided whether I have warmed to Pi or not yet but so far the book is very readable and engaging. Looking forward to continuing this particularly because it has proved so divisive.

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By the way, and I really don't know if this is relevent to the book and the name, there was a famous Richard Parker who was leader of the Nore Rebellion. The sailors of the Royal Navy finally had enough of the shocking conditions they were kept in, and mutinied, leading to the creation of a minor floating republic, slightly sympathetic to the French. There may be a metaphor in there for the tiger on the boat.

 

But it's a fairly obscure reference, and Yann Martel may not have known about him and it could be coincidence.

 

I dont know if you've already mentioned this, but he got the name from 2 separate cases of cannabilism at sea. One was real, the other was a story by Eadgar Allen Poe- written 40 years BEFORE. The poor sod's name was Richard Parker on both occasions.

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So glad we are discussing this book. I read it a while ago and loved it. It was one of those books I couldnt put down and didnt want it to end. I enjoyed it for the original story it is I didnt get too hung up on the faith issues or any other "message"it might have had - I read it like a "true " account of a fasinating set of circumstances which might have happened.

 

It did inspire me to read more of Yann Martel - I bought "The facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" - a set of short stories and I wasnt disappointed -some of that writing is just beautiful in its descriptions.

 

Dont take Life of Pi too seriously - you might enjoy it more that way!

:lol:

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1- Who was your favourite character and why?

Richard Parker! I was really rooting for him -

and hoping that Pi does not kill him!

 

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

One bit when -

pi tried to eat his body waste is a scene which I cannot get out of my head.

 

 

3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

Yes it is - I'd never heard of him before this - and I was not aware of the publicity this was was generating!

 

4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

No - not really - although I would have changed

the ending!

 

 

5- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Yes, I enjoyed it. The type of story is different - so that's probably why it caused a stir. I had not picked up on the colours thing before Andy (I think) mentioned it here, and I enjoyed reading how Richard got his name!

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I dont know if you've already mentioned this, but he got the name from 2 separate cases of cannabilism at sea. One was real, the other was a story by Eadgar Allen Poe- written 40 years BEFORE. The poor sod's name was Richard Parker on both occasions.

 

I'd forgotten that Richard Parker was named after Edgar Allen Poe's Richard Parker - it then, I guess, leads me to ask whether Poe's Parker was named after the sailor-mutineer.

 

As that - just checking - was written in 1838, it could well have not been coincidence and the mutiny might been an event Poe was familiar with.

 

Anyway, it would be nice to think that is another rail of meaning to the name.

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Well I have to say I enjoyed this although I think that given other people's comments I may have missed some of the deeper meaning that annoyed some people so much.

 

Taking it at face value I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was colourful, unusual and humourous. I loved the bits on the lifeboat. I loved the descriptions and Pis rambling thoughts.

 

The religious musings didn't really bother me, in fact I quite liked them I think. I didn't pick up on the symbolism of the colours (as Andy mentioned above) and am not sure if I see them there anyway.

 

 

I don't quite understand what comment the ending is making about faith, to me the ending was just an alternative view of events which the reader is left to beleive or not. To me it is ambiguous and I like ambiguity.

 

 

I am confused about the term magic realism. I am still not sure what it is and why this book is an example of it (if indeed it is). Can anyone shed any light?

 

One bit I didn't like much was

the conversation at the end with the Japanese investigators. I found the dialog quite irritating.

 

 

Anyway to answer the questions

 

1- Who was your favourite character and why?

Pi and Richard Parker

2- Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

All the bits on the boat

3- Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

Yes it was. I would probably read something else by the same author

4- Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

I don't think so but I may be missing something. I would have perhaps enjoyed it more without the ending, but then again I did find the ending interesting.

5- Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Yes

 

I can understand why people may have been disappointed with this book, while the prose was good I didn't find it outstanding. For a book so acclaimed I don't think it was that fantastic, very good but not brilliant. It's probably a good thing that I had reservations given other peoples misgivings. My expectations were not raised too high.

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I saw the "faith" thing as Pi saying "Here's what actually happened. It was a fairly tedious story of someone surviving. But if you have faith, and believe, then life is more full, more miraculous, you see miracles and wonder and escape the dreariness, and the main part of the story, with the tiger, is the kind of glorious view of the world you have when you believe". Otherwise, the opening of the book where he talks repeatedly about religion, really has no place; and the false ending also has no real place, and you'd be left with the tale of Pi on his boat with the tiger.

 

Which, to be honest, is exactly what I would have preferred, as it was the part of the book I enjoyed.

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Ah I see what you mean. I guess a "message" like that could annoy me too, particularly if I didn't have any faith.

 

The story on the boat was my favourite part too. I read the book simply as a fantastic adventure, without perhaps taking on the full significance of the ending. I may have to mull it over some more.

 

Thanks Andy.

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I am struggling with the beginning of the book, and starting to skim a little.. I think I need to get to the bit on the boat!

 

The illustrated version is very nice though. :)

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1. Who was your favourite character and why?

Didn't really have one (hardly a wide selection to choose from!). Pi didn't make much of any impression on me. I quite liked Richard Parker.

2. Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I enjoyed seeing Pi helping (and then trying to get rid of) Richard Parker after the boat sank - it was quite funny when you then found out who Richard Parker was!

3. Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

Yes, first book read by this author. I would perhaps read more of his work, but it would probably depend on the story.

4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

(Spoiler refers to end of book)

The island part was a bit weird and didn't fit well with the rest of the story, I thought. And what was with the Frenchman in the other boat? That was a completely random incident!

 

5. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

Yes, I'm glad I read it.

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