It has been eight years since Life of Pi was published to international critical acclaim, and won the 2002 Man Booker Prize. Martel’s novel shot to the top spot in lists and charts, flying off the shelves in airport bookshops, later to be spotted wherever there was sea, sand and sun. Sometimes with excessive hype there is the inevitable disappointment, the feeling of dread that a book simply cannot live up to your heightened expectations. However, there are some books which somehow manage to exceed your hopes. A story which makes you forget the reason you picked it up in the first place, whisks you off, and doesn’t drop you until you’ve finished the last page. Life of Pi is such a one.
Suspending your disbelief is a relatively important factor when reading the synopsis, but as with all fantastic novels, this is usually done for you with no conscious effort on your part. We spend the majority of the book on a boat, drifting about the Pacific Ocean with a sixteen year old Indian boy, a hyena, a zebra, an orang-utan and a Bengal tiger. Stranded, after the cargo ship they were travelling aboard was destroyed in a storm, Pi is forced to co-habit with animals in possession of ever-growing appetites. As he fights hunger, thirst and delirium, the conviction of Martel’s writing ensures the reader is never left questioning the ridiculousness of the situation. The book ends on a marvellous twist, which, as all good twists do, alters your entire perception of the novel up to that point. A modern masterpiece.