Book Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

RATING: StarStarStarStar

Genre: General Fiction

Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel — known as Pi — has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practise three religions — Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum. Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest of travelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi. Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal.

As the days pass, Pi fights both boredom and terror by throwing himself into the practical details of surviving on the open sea — catching fish, collecting rain water, protecting himself from the sun — all the while ensuring that the tiger is also kept alive, and knows that Pi is the key to his survival. The castaways face gruelling pain in their brushes with starvation, illness, and the storms that lash the small boat, but there is also the solace of beauty: the rainbow hues of a dorado’s death-throes, the peaceful eye of a looming whale, the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells. Hope is fleeting, however, and despite adapting his religious practices to his daily routine, Pi feels the constant, pressing weight of despair. It is during the most hopeless and gruelling days of his voyage that Pi whittles to the core of his beliefs, casts off his own assumptions, and faces his underlying terrors head-on.

Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize (2002), Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (2003), Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction (Canada) (2001), Governor General’s Literary Awards / Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général Nominee for Fiction (2001), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2005)


If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?

Wow. Life of Pi shocked me. How? Well, I don’t usually read this kind of book. But I gave it a try, and i loved it! Those nuggets of wisdom scattered across the book is what made it so special for me. Pi’s talk on zoos and animals bored me several times, but I always get sucked back into reading by his daunting philosophy in life. i think Life of Pi is not for everyone, but if you take the time to appreciate it, you will admire Pi as much as I do.

The scene that made a mark on me was Pi‘s encounter with the leaders of the religions he’s practicing simultaneously: Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Imagine him being so busy every week so he can practice his beliefs in all three! He did not understand why he has to choose only one. after all, he says, “i just want to love God!”. So true.

I also love Pi’s psychological battle with the tiger, Richard Parker. It was funny at time, anxious at most. Pi’s sheer will and determination to survive made him smart and diligent in finding ways to live after being adrift with a tiger for more than seven months.

i love Life of Pi. I may not recommend it outright, but it you are willing (and patient enough) to try, then by all means, read it.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

  1. Pingback: Elated: Life of Pi in theatres soon! « reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

  2. Pingback: Life of Pi | One More Page

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  4. Pingback: Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations | reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

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