This book is unusual - particularly chapter 100, which simply states that the author always wanted a chapter 100 and is completely irrelevant to the story. However, I think it deserved the Booker award for originality.
The story is broken down into three sections. The first part at first appears rambling. It covers the boy's early life, discusses animals, education and religion. I did wonder where it was going at this point, and I know that a lot of my friends stopped reading here.
I carried on because I wanted to see where it went. In the second part things fell into place. This section covers events, psychological and otherwise, that take place in a lifeboat. There is a boy, zebra, orang-utan, hyena and a tiger. At first I took it at face value (i.e. that the boy was in a boat with four animals) until something bizarre happened on an island. Then I tried to work out what the animals represented.
The themes that connect the parts are animals v man, spirituality v science, principles v survival and how a boy deals with these things when faced with harsh choices.
The third part covers the aftermath. When the boy's story is questioned because of the flaws, he offers an alternative tale. The point here is that people choose which one they believe. Both versions are incredible in their own way and my friends and I do not agree on which is the 'true' version.
A unique book. I love it because it has kept me thinking about moral dilemmas to this day.
Published by Random House of Canada and Canongate 11 September 2001.