Blame Hurricane Matthew and the lack of power for 5 days, but somehow I forgot to post my review of Yann Martel's Life of Pi when I originally finished it. Well, ya know what they say, better late than never. So, without further adieu, I give you this long overdue blog post:
I just finished Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and, though I rarely (never) say this, I think the movie was much better than the book. For those of you that haven't seen the movie or read the book, Life of Pi, is about a young boy from India whose family owns a Zoo. Pi Patel grows up learning from and loving this little slice of heaven. Then, for political reasons, his father and mother decide to sell the zoo and move to Canada. They secure passage from India to Canada on a Japanese freighter. For unknown reasons, the freighter sinks in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Only Pi survives, making his way onto one of the life boats. He is joined by an injured Zebra, a hynea, an oranatang, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. For obvious reasons, Pi soon finds himself left with only Richard Parker as a companion (because RP eats the other animals). Pi must learn how to survive in impossible conditions, all while learning how to tame a Bengal tiger, one of the most dangerous predators on earth. Pi spends more than 200 days lost at sea before he is finally rescued, but the majority of the story concerns his experiences while on the lifeboat with Richard Parker. At the end, Pi tells his story to the Japanese company that owned the freighter and they don't believe him. He then retells the whole story, but instead of animals with him on the lifeboat, there are other passengers from the crew. The readers are left to wonder if Pi's story was true, or simply allegorical.
So, why do I say that the movie was better than the book? Well, for those of you that have seen the movie, the graphics in it are absolutely stunning. Probably some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. In fact, in 2013 the movie won a myriad of awards including the Academy Award for Best Director, Best Visual Affects, Best Cinematography, and Best Special Visual Affects. So when I say the movie is visually amazing, I'm not alone in my thoughts. But the reason the cinematography has to be so amazing is becuase, not a lot happens in the book in terms of action. Most of the book is Pi's inner thoughts about how he's surviving. He describes the amazing things he sees, but those things are much better actually seen than read about and imagined. The book also seems somewhat disconnected and random. For example, an obscene amount of time is spent explaining how Pi got his name. It's very interesting to read about the story, but it is in no way connected to anything else in the novel so it seems really random. Also, toward the end, it seems like Yann Martel really wanted to have an even 100 chapters, so some of the chapters included are really pointless. For example, Ch. 97's entire contents are the words, "The story."
Now, I'm fully aware that my opinion of this story is generally not shared by others. I've heard plenty of people remark, after reading this book, that it was "so deep" and that they really enjoyed the allegorical implications at the end of the novel. Well, that's all fine and good, but as for me, I felt cheated. Why did I just read 300 pages only to find out that it wasn't true? Or maybe it was true. The reader is left to wonder. Well me, I like to know where I stand, so being left to wonder if I just wasted my time reading this story where in the end the author is like "just kidding" - well it doesn't sit well with me.
So, Life of Pi, to read or not to read. Honestly, if you like to think deeply about what you're reading and being left to wonder then knock yourself out. If not, watch the movie. Trust me, it's good.
I decided to read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard after it was recommended to me by a number of students. Let me just say I am SO glad I did. I couldn't put the book down, even getting up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday to finish reading it (I know, I'm a loser). Red Queen is set in a futuristic society where one's blood determines their status. Red's are regular humans, like us and Silver's are gods (or humans that have evolved into gods) and have supernatural powers such as the ability to manipulate fire or read minds. Reds have become slaves to the powerful Silvers, who oppress them at every turn. The Silvers are ruled by a monarchy and want for almost nothing, while Reds are barely able to put food on the table. Silvers live in excess while Red's starve to death.
Red Queen follows Mare Barrow, a Red who has learned theivery as a means for providing for her family. When she pick-pockets a boy who she assumes is a servent, she finds herself being summoned to the castle. She thinks she is going to be punished, but ends up getting a job as a servent for the castle - a job that will provide much better for her family than pick-pocketing does. Imagine her surprise then, when she realizes that the person who gets her this job is the boy who she tried to steal from, and is no Red at all, but the future Silver king. When she sees him presiding over the Queenstrial battles, she is so shocked that she loses her footing and falls into the arena. She should die from the electrical shock of the lightening dome that protects spectators for the gladiators in the arena. Instead, lightening shoots from her hands, revealing to Mare an unknown power of being able to control electricity. But, Mare is a Red. She shouldn't have powers. Now Mare finds herself in a predicament. She's a Red, but she has powers like a Silver! Her existence threatens the power of the royal family and as a cover, they invents a story for Mare, calling her the long lost daughter of an ancient Silver family. You know what they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Mare finds herself now living in the world of the Silvers, pretending to be something she's not - a Silver. One drop of her red blood could cost her life, and she has enemies everywhere she turns. Who can she trust and how is she going to make it out alive? Read and find out.
While none of us live in the world of Mare Barrow, we can all relate to her main conflicts in the book. Essentially, she is trying to fit in where she don't belong. She doesn't always know who she can trust, and at times she feels betrayed by those she thought she could trust. Sound familiar? While the stakes might be higher for Mare (her life), we can all relate to this feeling of not belonging, not knowing who to trust and feeling betrayel. Whether it's in school, with our friends, or even our family, we all have those moments where it seems like the world is out to get us. In those moments it's hard to know where to go or who to trust. Betrayel is a feeling we can all relate to at some point or another in our lives. If you haven't already, it's likely that at some pointin your life, you will feel betrayed by someone. Whether it's a friend who promises to keep your secret and then doesn't, or something more serious than that, at some point we will all feel that gut-wrenching disappointment. When we do, like Mare, we will wonder who can we really trust. This is why this book was so interesting to me. While I don't live in Mare's world exactly, I can relate to the feelings that she's having as she endures the conflicts of this novel.
This novel could be considered dystopian literature, and it's one reason I decided to read it now while we are doing our dystopian novel studies. As we discussed in class, one feature of dystopian literature is the relatability of characters to young adult readers like yourselves. YA readers like that the main characters in these novels tackle problems head on and without regret. We want to emulate their actions in our own lives (obviously with less drama and death, but with the intent of standing up for our beliefs). Much like Katniss Everdeen and Tris in Hunger Games and Divergent respectively, Mare Barrow gives readers a character to relate to, look up to, and ultimately root for. So, if you're in the mood for an action packed book that will keep you flipping the pages, pick up Red Queen and give it a read.
Over the Thanksgiving break, I decided to pick up an old favorite, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I've read this book a number of times, and every time I read it, I find something new I didn't notice or that I forgot about. Pride and Prejudice is about the Bennett sisters, specifically the second eldest, Elizabeth Bennett. Because they have no brother, once their father dies, his fortune and their home will go to their closest male relative, their cousin Mr. Collins. In order to avoid homelessness and complete destitution, the girls must make good marriages. Unfortunately, living in the English countryside doesn't give them a whole lot of options. They feel very fortunate when, in a stroke of luck, a wealthy gentleman moves into a neighboring mansion. Elizabeth's sister Jane immediately falls for their new neighbor, Mr. Bingley. Unfortunately, with Mr. Bingley comes Mr. Darcy, whose pride and haughty nature make him unpopular in the countryside. Elizabeth immediately dislikes Mr. Darcy. It would be safe to say she can't stand him, so imagine her surprise when he asks her to marry him! Elizabeth rejects him on the spot, but as the story goes on, she starts to wonder if maybe she didn't make a terrible error in judegment. Is Mr. Darcy really so bad? You'll have to read it to find out.
So, why, you may ask, do I love Pride and Prejudice so much? Well, it's because of Elizabeth Bennett. She might not seem like it by today's standards, but for her time, she's a rebel. To me, she’s the original feminist working within the confines of her society to bring about change. Elizabeth doesn’t just accept her lot in life with complacency. Instead she’s feisty. She speaks her mind. She turns down marriage proposals even knowing that her future is uncertain because she wants something better for herself in her life. She tells Mr Darcy, "You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it," (131). Harsh.
She stands up to wealthy heiresses who don’t know how to mind their own business, such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady de Bourgh says to Elizabeth, "Miss Bennett I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable young woman." She says this because Elizabeth refuses to just bow down and do what she says. Lady de Bourgh isn't used to people standing up to her, but Elizabeth takes the challenge without batting an eye.
However, Elizabeth knows when she’s made a mistake and she takes responsibility for them. For example, when she learns that she's made a mistake in supposing Mr. Darcy to be a prideful man and realizes that he's actually quite honorable, she spends the remainder of the novel trying to make amends for it. In a word, she’s awesome and a role model for girls both now and in the 1800s.