Category Archives: Book review

Life of Pi: Book or Film

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

When I found out that Yann Martel’s international bestselling, Man Booker award winning novel Life of Pi was being turned into a film I was immediately curious as to how it would be done.

It did not surprise me that 20th Century Fox wanted to turn the fantasy story into a film (it probably wasn’t the only film producer to want its rights!) After all, the novel Life of Pi has sold more than seven million copies worldwide, making it one of the bestselling books of all time – it certainly bodes well for a film adaptation! It also means that it has a LOT to live up to.

At first I doubted whether such a book could be adequately caught on film, but from the outset audience are drawn into India and are then taken on a memorable journey across the South Pacific.

The plot is well explained and most of the key ideas are transferred from book to screen. The characterisation is executed slightly differently and as a result I liked Pi of the film more than I liked Pi of the book. The film’s Pi is more human and easier to relate to, he experiences heartbreak and the audience sees him misbehave – the Pi of book does not have a young love and does not put himself in danger to see a tiger in the zoo.

The main advantage of the film is that it offers a real visual experience in 3D, with some superb special effects, notably as rain falls and the audience sway to miss the drops (that’s when you know a viewer is really engrossed in the action!)

However, a niggling part of me couldn’t help but think that the spectacular effects were distracting the audience from the fantastic story behind the images. There is a stunning scene where jelly fish are lit up against the dark ocean at night; offering Pi a glimmer of hope with religious undertones. When comparing this to the same imagery of the book I feel that Martel manages to focus the context in a way that the film fails to do. This scene in the film entirely isolates the idea of Pi’s desolation and is a total distraction from the grander scheme of the plot.

Overall I think the film does justice to the book. The film compares negatively only because the scope of a film is different to that of a book. The nature of the story means that it is better suited to the page than the screen.

Seeing the film made me want to read the book again, rereading it made me realise that you can only say that you have experienced the Life of Pi when you have read it twice, because there are so many things that the reader can relate to on a double level when they know the ambiguous ending. Martel’s book is a real experience, the film skims the surface of the story but an hour and half is not sufficient to make the audience feel what Pi felt as he was stranded for 227 days in a lifeboat on the Pacific Ocean.

The main conversation after the film was about which side of the plot was true. Logically, neither are true, they are both parts of a well-made piece of fictional literature. But then, all stories are born from truth, aren’t they?

Most Anticipated: The Great 2013 Book Preview

After reading Literary 2013 it’s clear that 2013 is going to be a very exciting and book-filled year.

Here’s a preview of some exciting things to come:

Review: Zadie Smith, N-W

Being a student I don’t generally buy ‘expensive’ hardcopies of any books. However, I attempted to wait for the release of Zadie Smith’s newest novel, N-W, in paperback and failed miserably. I managed a meagre two weeks before giving in and forking out £14.99 for the hardback from WHSmiths. I probably (almost definitely) could have gotten it cheaper offline, but I just didn’t want to wait for the delivery.

I must admit, I was a little bit let down by the cover of the book, which is nothing special. Perhaps my judgement is harsh because of the fantastic covers of Zadie Smith’s other books, particularly ‘The Book of Other People’, which is a short story collection that Zadie Smith was the editor of.

So, ignoring my lack of passion for the cover, I delved into the novel expecting one of Zadie Smith’s usual gripping introductions, but I found myself struggling to concentrate on the narrative. This was entirely because the dialogue was formed without quotation marks and instead used dashes to mark a new speaker. As a result, it sometimes required the rereading of sections to work out which of the characters said what. I’d like to think that invoking a struggle for the reader was entirely intentional, to reflect the problems in the characters’ lives, but even if not, it is difficult to fault Zadie Smith for experimenting with this quirky style as she has tried different things with her other novels which have worked wonderfully, such as the string of emails in ‘On Beauty’.

Regardless, I persevered with the novel, thinking that perhaps my expectations had been raised too high by Zadie Smith’s previous work. Eventually my patience was rewarded; in the second section the focus shifted and the annoying dashes had been ditched and speech marks returned (never again will I take speech marks for granted). I followed the story of Felix with curiosity, wondering where it was leading to and this question stuck with me throughout the novel, until all of the loose strings were tied up quite nicely at the very end of the book.

All in all, N-W gives the reader a lot to think about, much more than it explicitly states. There are constant suggestions about the state of society and about the members of a community struggling to cope in their urban surroundings. I cannot say it was my favourite of Zadie Smith’s novels, but N-W does back up the fact that she is an undeniably fine writer tackling the details and difficulties of modern culture.