Review: Life of Pi

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Publication Date: 1 May 2003
ISBN: 0156027321
Pages: 319
Genre: Literary Fiction, Survival, Adventure
Format: Paperback
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon|Book Depository

The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them “the truth.” After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional–but is it more true?

My thoughts

There are so many things that I thought were absolutely great about this book. I had watched about 20 minutes of the Life of Pi movie adaptation when I was on a plane a few years ago but, other than that, I went in blind.

The book is broken up into 3 parts, each with a distinctive purpose: learning about Pi, Pi’s survival story, and Pi’s interrogation. In the first part we are introduced to some interesting characters. Yann Martel created an author who is narrating the novel to us readers who happens to also be named Yann Martel. I thought the idea of having another author who was between the reader and the storyteller added a sense of believability to Pi’s otherwise fanciful tale.

Pi himself is also introduced in the first part. Learning about him and why he is the way that he is such an interesting journey. Something that Martel (the real author) did fantastically was include a lot of character information without it being overwhelming. Moreover, it was presented in such a way that it was slightly unforgettable. I really enjoyed learning about Pi’s belief systems and why he is the way he is just based on his childhood before he lost his family. Much of the nuances of the novel can’t be discussed in this review because I don’t want to spoil the novel for anyone and therefore a lot of the characters in this novel are going to be glossed over. But what I can say is that each character in this novel has a purpose to the reader and in Pi’s life and everyone is so well developed.

Pi’s survival tale is makes up part 2 of the book. This is more of a flashback and starts off being very realistic and believable but the further along the story got, the more fanciful it became. And many things as you continue become things that can be called into question. Richard Parker, the tiger, is a character that many people who have heard of the movie have some knowledge of. But honestly I think movie Richard Parker is different from book Richard Parker- both are fantastic but there is a distinct difference. Even though he never speaks and we can’t be in his head, Richard Parker is an interesting character who was again well developed.

Part 3 is Pi’s interview with the Japanese authorities. Here again not much can be said without spoiling the novel but the falsified story that Pi tells the authorities really drives home the theme of “the power of writing”. The overall ending of the novel was somewhat disappointing but each individual story was extremely interesting. Martel created a story within a story within another story that explored various themes. Moreover, each story was interesting and engaging with developed and intriguing characters.

I would recommend Life of Pi to every kind of reader even if you don’t particularly enjoy reading. The concept of multiple layers provides the reader with a feeling that the odd story is somewhat truthful and realistic. Overall, everything about this novel was fantastic.


4 star

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