Pi (not π)

I just finished reading Life of Pi, the intriguing novel by Yann Martel. (I owe thanks to my colleague, Donna Gonzalez, for not only recommending this book but also lending her copy to me.) Just to get one thing straight from the start — since I’m a math teacher — the title has virtually nothing to do with the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. The narrator’s name just happens to be Piscine, or “Pi” for short.

Piscine? Well, yes. Having a protagonist named after a swimming pool is far from the most improbable characteristic of this novel. In fact, the entire story deals with improbabilities, starting with a 16-year-old from India who is simultaneously Hindu, Muslim, and Christian and proceeding to the central and longest part of the story, in which Pi shares a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger for 227 days. While there’s rather too many violence and too much religion for my tastes, I cannot deny Martel’s ability to hold my attention fiercely for the entire length of the book. The writing is intense, the characterization of the protagonist is captivating, and the tale itself is an extraordinary example of dramatic storytelling. Reading this book is an unforgettable experience, so don’t read it if you think it’s something that you might want to forget!

Categories: Books