“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy.” (page 178)
This is one of the best fictional books I’ve read in a very long time. I struggled with the first few chapters, but in hindsight, they were necessary to set the context for the rest of the book. Once I hit the half-way point, I couldn’t put it down.
Briefly, the novel tells the story of Pi Patel, a sixteen-year-old Indian boy from Tamil Nadu. Pi boards a ship with his family and some of the animals from their zoo, but the ship sinks enroute and Pi is stranded on a lifeboat, fighting for survival.
I particularly enjoyed the allegorical elements of the story, both spiritual and literary (the latter didn’t become obvious until the very end of the book). My background in Hindu lore and scriptures added an additional dimension to the story for me – Pi makes many references to Indian gods and heros. Arjuna and Sri Krishna, of the Bhagavad Gita, both get a mention!
The ending of this book had me reeling; I was completely caught up in the story with unquestioning enthusiasm so the conclusion took me by surprise. This is one of those rare books that I would like to read again.
Why? You must read it to find out! No spoilers here! ;-)