Vividly dull

‘Life of Pi’ – Yann Martel


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Life of Pi – Yann Martel

After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors are Pi, a 16-year-old boy, a spotted hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, a female orangutan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal Tiger. As the ‘crew’ begin to grow restless and assert their natural place in the food chain, Pi’s fear mounts and he must use his wit, knowledge and faith to survive against all odds.

After hearing so much about this book, both before and after the film release, I was pleased to have the opportunity of reading ‘Life of Pi’. But I have to say that after all of the hype and publicity, I was really disappointed and found this a very tedious book.

‘So why did you carry on reading it,then?’ I hear you ask. Simply out of curiosity. I knew that the ending had something to offer and wanted to get there from the very start. Plus, I was also hoping that the story might improve…. Sadly, I was mistaken.

”Life of Pi’ is about a boy who is stranded on a lifeboat after a ship taking him and his family (plus some of their zoo animals) from India to Canada, sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The majority of the story details the boy’s survival on the boat and how he adapted to being stranded at sea for 227 days. He learns how to fish, save drinking water and tame a tiger.

Whilst I found this book tedious, it certainly is very vivid and colourful. From the beginning, the descriptions are very detailed and though it does create very colourful images in your head, I don’t think I fully appreciated what Martel was trying to achieve. Yes, I did feel sorry for Pi and his struggles, but just wished there was a bit more to the plot.

Now that I have ticked off ‘Life of Pi’ from books you should read in your lifetime, I can safely say I won’t be returning to it. This is a book that tries to teach you about human nature and whilst it isn’t a fable, I think this is why it didn’t quite appeal to me – the teachings just didn’t reach me the way Martel probably intended. If you have already seen the film then you know what to expect from this book. If not, certainly don’t approach this anticipating lots of action and drama.


Nature versus nurture

‘Nature and Art’ – Elizabeth Inchbald

1-star-rating (1)

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Nature and Art – Elizabeth Inchbald

Commands a central place in the history of the English Jacobean novel. Published in 1796, the story explores the opposition between the upbringing and actions of Henry Norwynne, an unspoiled ‘child of nature’ who has been reared without books on an African island, and the corrupt conduct of his aristocratic older cousin, William.

This novel explores the principal of nature versus nurture. Brothers, William and Henry, who go to London to seek their fortune. Whilst William stays in London and pursues his religious studies, Henry travels. Years pass and readers follow the central protagonists, young William and young Henry. Young William has been strictly educated in London and is considered showing proper and impeccable behaviours. On the other hand, young Henry has grown up in Africa, away from books and education.

When young Henry is first introduced to his uncle, (Henry being imprisoned abroad), Henry’s responses to London life and general language use are quite amusing and it reflects Inchbald’s social perceptions of the time. As the novel progresses, the reader sees the difference between young William and young Henry’s natures: the manner in which they treat others around them and how they react to events is to encourage readers what is of more value: education from books and tutors, or education from worldly experiences?

As the novel progresses, I found myself hoping that all wronged characters were redeemed. The fact that this does not happen shows Inchbald’s pessimism and I think this would only be more resounding if readers do a close study of this novel. By this I mean exploring the text’s commentaries and appendices. I had the opportunity of studying this novel at university so feel quite grounded in the context of this story, but certainly feel that this should be taken into consideration if deciding to read this short novel.

I rated this novel so low because I found myself drifting. Despite it being quite short, I did not find myself dwelling on the messages that Inchbald was trying to convey. There is a lot of depth with this story, beyond the short plot, and I think to truly appreciate Inchbald’s work, this should be considered as part of the novel’s offering.

One that encourages you to muse on your attitudes towards life, ambition and fate

‘The Alchemist’ – Paulo Coelho


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The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Similar to Johnson’s ‘The History of Rasselas’ [], this philosophical novel intends to encourage readers to evaluate their attitude towards life and their own ambitions, through the story of Santiago the shepherd. Whilst the messages throughout this novella are pretty clear, I personally don’t have much time for such teachings and found myself racing through to reach its conclusion.

So if this book does appeal to you, it definitely is one that should be read in several sittings to consider the messages that Coelho writes of. It is certainly not difficult to decipher; the time would be in relating it to your own life and experiences.

That being said, I was keen to know what fate had in store for Santiago, hence me reading it through to the very end, otherwise I am pretty sure I would have abandoned this one. So it might be that I find I think back on this book much later after finishing it and that ‘The Alchemist’ has taught me something on a subconscious level.

This novella will not take long to consume if you are curious to know what this book is actually about after just hearing others mention the title. However, if you aren’t into your philosophical, “life teaching” stories, then give this one a miss because there is not much essence to the plot beyond its morals.