I have so much love for this book! ::happy sigh:: It was amazing. Amazing. Seriously. I enjoyed this more than any book I've read in a while, and I've read some excellent books lately. Originally, I'd intended to register and release this copy when I'd finished it, but after I'd read the final page (more than once - I was so disappointed that there wasn't more, I almost couldn't bear for it to be over), I closed the book, held it to my chest and said aloud, "You are not going anywhere - you are staying here with me." (Seriously. I really did speak out loud to this book).
I suppose I should probably say a bit about what the book is actually about, eh? As most people know, it's about a boy who get shipwrecked on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger (this isn't really a spoiler; at least on my edition, it was clear from the cover illustration that this is what happens). The first part of the story takes place in India, and tells of Pi's life and especially his spiritual journey, in which he decides that Christianity, Hinduism and Islam are all true faiths, and he wants to practice all three of them. It's really lovely how he describes all this. Throughout the book, I enjoyed the prose, especially Pi's descriptions of his own mental process. It was rich, and very real to me. In fact, there is a part of me that believes that all this really happened, in spite of knowing that this book says "fiction" on the spine. :D Then, once he and his family get on the boat to Canada, a whole new adventure begins. If you haven't read this book, I highly, highly recommend it, and I think it would be appropriate for younger people, as well (teenagers, maybe even a bit younger). If you haven't read it yet, don't click below, because I give away the ending. Instead, go find a copy of this book and read it. :D
The rest of this contains MAJOR SPOILERS
I'm not sure to what degree my own emotions matched those of most readers, but very quickly - as soon as I realised who Richard Parker really was, I was rooting for him above all else. It became very VERY important to me that he survive this ordeal; I didn't have to worry about Pi, as we know from the start that he survives, since he's the one telling the story, after a fashion. So, Richard Parker's existence was what I cared about most. I was nervous at first - I knew that Pi would have to come to some sort of "agreement" with the tiger, and until he did, I was concerned that something would happen that I wouldn't like. Then, not quite half-way through the book, this paragraph literally brought tears of joy to my eyes:
I had to tame him. It was at that moment that I realized this necessity. It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me. We were, literally and figuratively, in the same boat. We would live - or we would die - together. He might be killed in an accident, or he could die shortly of natural causes, but it would be foolish to count on such an eventuality. More likely the the worst would happen: the simple passage of time, in which his animal toughness would easily outlast my human frailty. Only if I tamed him could I possibly trick him into dying first, if we had to come to that sorry business.
But there's more to it. I will come clean. I will tell you a secret: a part of me was glad about Richard Parker. A part of me did not want Richard Parker to die at all, because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker. He kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstances. He pushed me to go on living. I hated him for it, yet at the same time I was grateful. I am grateful. It's the plain truth: without Richard Parker, I wouldn't be alive to tell you my story.
Reading that, I felt my heart swell. (I know the term is so cliche in literature, but that is the best way to describe how I felt). Richard Parker was no longer the enemy, and that made me very happy indeed. From there on, some of the fear and tension I'd been feeling left me, and the book became more of a wonderful adventure. I loved reading about all the ways Pi kept them both alive, and the things that happened on their voyage. The incident on the island was strange, but really interesting. I have such a clear image of Richard Parker coming over the hill, and stopping to the sound of the whistle - he so wanted to obey the command, but the acid was burning his feet (although we didn't know that yet), so he hopped like a "deer" until he could get on the boat. Like I said earlier, it all seemed so real, so believeable, and I just loved it.
Near the end, I felt heartbroken when Richard Parker jumped off the boat and ran into the forest when they reached Mexico. I cried - silent, wracking sobs - and several minutes later, when I was finally able to pull myself together to read more, I was amazed to discover that Pi had put my feelings into words EXACTLY. I wanted - I felt that I needed - closure: to say goodbye and thank you. And, oh, I really wanted Richard Parker to stay. I wanted . . . well, what I wanted was something from a fairytale - Pi and Richard Parker living happily together ever after. Which would have made for, frankly, a far less satisfying ending. It was much more beautiful the way it was written. And there is something just a bit magical about the thought of Richard Parker living successfully in a jungle in Mexico. :)
I loved this book, and look forward to reading it again someday, and being able to savour these beautiful moments a second time. I also wonder just how different it will be for me reading through and already knowing how it will end. There was tension for me most of the way through, not knowing whether or not Richard Parker would actually survive. I think that the book will not be diminished on a second reading because of this, but of course I won't know for certain until I actually sit down and read it again. 10/10, 401 pages (Permanent Collection)