Life of Pi – Yann Martel

ISBN: 184195392X

For the most part, I actually found this book quite boring. Martel tells the story of a teenage boy who is trapped in a lifeboat with a huge tiger. Surreal as this novel is, Martel narrates, through Pi Patel, in what feels like real time. And so, of course, the plot moves very slowly. This is all very well, but considering nothing more is going on than a boy and a tiger stranded in the middle of the ocean for the majority of the novel, this failed to capture me.
It certainly wasn’t entirely uninteresting though–far from it. Martel grapples with issues such as what it is to be human, and are we just animals? He presents us with life when life itself is the only thing we are fighting for. And by the end he raises questions about reliable narrators and the nature of fact and fiction.
The character of Pi himself is unique and brilliantly created, with Martel building up a whole personality around his nickname, with the stories surrounding it. I found this enchanting. There is also a long discussion about religion towards the beginning of this novel, which is fascinating, illuminating and charming in its naivety. With more of these aspects, this work could have been brilliant.
There was also a very interesting snapshot of a dystopia in miniature, which I would have loved Martel to go into much deeper. What is unique about this novel is that we are shown social and environmental set-ups that we have seen many times before, but in such a microcosm that the elements are distilled to their very basics.
Rating: 6/10

Anne of Green Gables — L. M. Montgomery

ISBN: 0141323744

I thought it was time I reviewed another classic. This novel is simply delightful; it is full of charm and sparks of life that cannot fail to bring one joy. Montgomery’s characters, particularly the eponymous Anne, are instant gloominess dispellers with their quick-fire wit and beautiful naivety.

Though written for children, Anne of Green Gables, is a social satire which will bring amusement to any age, perhaps more so as we get older. It is Anne herself, though, who I find most captivating. As we watch her grow in stature and wisdom, we fall for her all the more. This good-hearted girl cannot help getting into trouble, but usually manages to talk her way out of it.

We are presented with a heroine who is as imaginative as Montgomery herself and who weaves castles in the air that we feel we could leap right into. Though Anne, as well as other characters, always learn something through their misadventures, this is not a book that feels preachy, and we delight in the playful revelry.

The scenery of this book, too, is just beautiful. Montgomery captures rural Canada at the turn of the century with such detail that we can almost feel the blossom of the trees against our fingertips and smell the bread baking in Marilla’s oven. This is a book that makes it feel like perpetual springtime.

Rating: 8/10

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

ISBN: 1853260207

As today is World Book Day, I thought I would write a special review. So, here goes. This is my review of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (it bothers me that this blog site doesn’t seem to let me type umlauts… although there is a fairly interesting story behind the umlauts, so probably they shouldn’t be there anyway). Normally I would shy away from reviewing such an infamous classic, but it is my favourite work of fiction, which I like to think makes this a special post.

This novel is cherished by many, and rightly so. This is a book that, I believe, contains everything a good book should. This is Gothic fiction at its finest, its sharpest and its most poignant. This is not a girly book. It contains romance, yes, and is probably the most genuinely romantic book I have read, exploring the idea of soulmates and the connection that this brings. But it is so much more. This is a novel that is ground-breaking, tragic and genuinely terrifying.

The language Bronte uses is so precise that each sentence reads as poetry for the word sounds alone. She conjures settings with uncanny realism, which sucks us into the vortex of the novel. And we do not want to escape. More than this though, the emotions she evokes are so exact that we feel them to our core. We weep and lust and recoil just as our heroine Jane does as she boldly leads us through the plot, taking each hurdle in her stride, but also thinking upon it deeply.

It has been said many times before, but I will say it again: this novel was truly ahead of its time. Here we have a first-person narrator who is not only a woman, but is an independent, working, thinking woman. She longs for equality with men in a way that does not deny her femininity. She is young and inexperienced, but incredibly wise at the same time; I truly admire the faith Bronte furnishes this character with. If you have not read this book, I implore you to do so.

Rating: 10/10