book reviews by Althea

Life of Pi – Yann Martel **

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Picked this up back in 2010, in a bargain bin, ’cause I’d heard some good things about it, and it’s a Man Booker prize winner, after all… It sat around for a while, and I finally decided to read it due to the movie coming out… wondered if I’d be motivated to go see the film version. The answer is no.

I feel a little guilty giving this only two stars. It’s undeniably very well-written.

However, it was chock-full of things I find annoying.

I found the faux-author’s intrusion into the story annoying.

I found the character of Pi Patel to be annoying and preachy.

And my annoyance exploded into a volcano of aggravation at the final “This whole story you’ve just been told was probably just a metaphor-laden lie, and see, look, here’s a point by point explanation of all the places where the allegory works! Look at me! How clever was all that!?”

Again, it was well-done. The author very skillfully moves from a realistic narrative scenario, where you feel that Pi is telling his story fairly accurately, to a place where the reader feels elements of doubt creeping in, to a spot where you’re prepared to accept that Pi’s traumatic experiences have caused him to re-cast events. There’s some very nicely crafted foreshadowing. Good, well-researched details and a vivid setting.

However, the religiosity of the book as a whole got under my skin, and I have a personal deep-seated aversion to any book that ends with “It was all just a dream/lie/allegory/etc.”

As one of Kelly Link’s characters says in the book I read directly prior to this: “there shouldn’t be a moral, although we should be able to think back later and have some kind of revelation. No ‘and suddenly they woke up and discovered that it was all a dream.’ Got that?”

(And if one MUST reveal an allegory, one shouldn’t have to give the reader a point-by-point explanation of it.)


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