Book Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi
By Yann Martel
319 pages
Finished 4/6/08


It is easy to see why Yann Martel’s 2001 novel, Life of Pi, was widely praised and went on to become an international bestseller. Martel tells a story both striking and unique, the life story of Piscine Patel. When he was growing up in India as the son of a zookeeper, Piscine was teased unmercifully for his name, so he shortened it to Pi, as in the mathematical symbol ?. This change of name is only the first of several fascinating changes Pi experiences. Some are more or less under his control, like his pursuit of truth by simultaneously studying Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Some, like his father’s decision to move the family to Canada, are not under Pi’s control, especially when the ship carrying the Patel family sinks and Pi is stranded in a lifeboat with only a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a 450-pound tiger for company.

The bulk of this fascinating, colorful novel focuses on Pi’s struggles to survive and to make sense of this dehumanizing condition in which he finds himself. Every setting, from India to the lifeboat and on to Mexico once Pi is rescued, is vividly rendered. Martel has an eye for vivid details and piles them on, making this novel a joy to read and supremely easy to imagine.

I started this book just as we began tearing our house apart, which left me with little time to read. It seemed to take me FOR-EV-ER to finish it. Had I been able to read it with fewer interupptions, I think I would have enjoyed it even more than I did. There were parts that seemed disjointed, but I attribute that to the long breaks that I took between picking the book up to read. I think I’ll definately read it again, when things settle down, and hopefully get even more out of it.

I do have some confusion as to whether the book is based on a true story. It begins with an author’s note that leads one to believe that it is definately a true story. However, I read on Wikipedia (which, according to Michael Scott, is the place to get the best possible information) that the author’s note is not written from the perspective of Yann Martel, but from the perspective of a fictional author who is just a character in the story. Anybody out there know?

Overall, I did really enjoy this one. It came recommended from a friend, and I didn’t know anything about it when I started….I gathered a bit from the picture on the cover, but not knowing any background gave it a bit of a slow start for me. I just wasn’t sure where the story was going, and I was quite surprised when the ship sank! By the time I was beyond the halfway mark, I had a hard time putting it down.

It looks like this one is coming to the big screen in 2009, so it’s definately one to watch for (but read the book first)!

2008 Page Count: 3021


One Response to “Book Review: Life of Pi”

  1. Kate Says:

    So which story do you think is the “real” one . . . the one with animals, or people? Much debating was done in book club over THAT question . . . lol

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