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Word Count: 892
Animal magnetism Life of Pi Yann Martel 319pp CanongateIn the authors note that prefaces this vertiginously tall tale Yann Martel blends fact and fiction with wily charm Yes hed published two books that failed to shake the world - eager studious-young-mans fiction with a strain of self-conscious experimentalism - and taken off to India nursing the faltering seeds of another But no he didnt there meet a wise old man who directed him to a putative main character now living back in Martels native Toronto a certain Piscine Molitor or Pi Patel named for a French swimming pool and nicknamed for an irrational number who in the mid-1970s survived 227 days lost at sea with a Royal Bengal tiger Despite the extraordinary premise and literary playfulness one reads Life of Pi not so much as an allegory or magical-realist fable but as an edge-of-seat adventure When the ship in which 16-year-old Pi and his zookeeping family are to emigrate from India to Canada sinks leaving him the sole human survivor in a lifeboat on to which barge a zebra a hyena an orang-utan and a bedraggled seasick tiger Pi is determined to survive the impossible I will turn miracle into routine The amazing will be seen every day And Martel writes with such convincing immediacy seasoning his narrative with zoological verisimilitude and survival tips about turtle- fishing solar stills and keeping occupied the lifeboat manual notes that yarn spinning is highly recommended that disbelief is suspended like Pi above the terrible depths of the Pacific ocean Martel dextrously prepares us for the seafaring section in the first part of the book which describes Pis sunny childhood in the Pondicherry zoo and his triple conversion to Hinduism Islam and Christianity We learn much about animal behaviour - flight distances aggression social hierarchy - which is later translated to Pis survival tactics on the lifeboat Like a lion tamer in the circus ring Pi must convince
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