Details: (c) Yann Martel 2001; Pub Canongate Books Ltd 2003; ISBN 1-84195-392-X
Verdict: Life of Pi is really worth the hype, a lovely story!
Reasons for reading it: A lot of fuss was made about this and it sounded like the sort of book I'd enjoy.
How it came into my hands: Lochee Library.
I quite often find I don't like Booker winners, as they're too literary and clever-clever at the expense of story. Life of Pi is not at all like this; it's beautifully written, and I'm sure a literary person could find plenty to chew on, but it's one of the most plot-driven and readable highbrow novels I've ever come across.
I was completely hooked by the first section, which gives Pi's background. It's a really gorgeous character piece, and the language is perfect, but it never drags, it's amusing and engaging and accessible. So by the time of Pi's shipwreck about a third of the way through, I really cared about him.
The rest of the book is a really exciting adventure story. The language is beautiful, but it's never obtrusive, it looks artless. And there's all kinds of clever stuff going on with the unreliable narrator, and allusions to other fabulous voyages, and playing with ideas about suspension of disbelief and so on. But it's also thouroughly enjoyable, dramatic and with plenty of emotional contrast.
The philosophizing seems completely natural, it's either entirely in character for Pi's first person perspective, or just arises naturally out of reading the story. There's no sense of being told what to think, just an exciting story which is a lot deeper than it looks. I also like the way the story is framed, with an original take on the rather old fashioned trick of starting out with a writer who meets someone who tells him an amazing story...
I couldn't recommend this more. Lovely book, I'm really glad I read it!