Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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So I know I’m going to be very late on this review because the book came out ages ago, but only recently did I finish reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Many of my friends read the book when they were in high school and now that there’s been a movie out, I figured it was time to start reading.

The book starts out really well and drew me in instantly. Literally, the first line is “This book was born as I was hungry”, which I thought was an interesting way of starting a novel. The introduction describes a short story of an aspiring author who travels far and wide to find a story. He eventually meets an old man in a coffee shop who tells him to meet a Mr. Piscine “Pi” Patel, who resides in Canada, and who eventually tells the author his story. So the whole book is written as a narration from Mr. Patel to the author and there a few occasional flashbacks.

The basic story is that of Pi’s childhood growing up in Pondicherry, a city in South India, and working for his family’s zoo. Eventually, the family decides to shift to Canada, where it’s less political and easier to manage a zoo. Given their baggage of an assortment of animals, their family decides to sail—not in an Ark!—but in a cruise liner across the Pacific. Midway through their journey, things go faulty with the ship and it crashes, but not before Pi is thrown onto a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan,…oh and a 450-pound Bengal Tiger. The rest of the story is about Pi’s attempts to survive on the lifeboat while finding a way to make peace with the carnivorous feline, which obviously he does.

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I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but I will tell you that I was disappointed with the way the book ended up. There are some amusing parts in the beginning where Martel talks about how a young Pi starts practicing the three largest religions in the world—Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism—all at the same time. It’s certainly refreshing to see Martel describe the intricacies of these religions so well, and the naivety that Pi adds as being an inquisitive young boy who simply “loves all religions” made me think about why in God’s name (whichever God you believe in!) there’s so much history of violence between these three faiths. However, this is short lived. There’s little philosophical religious talk as the story continues, and once he’s on the lifeboat, the story actually gets rather dark and even brutal at times, which is not something I really expected. So overall, I give this book 3/5 stars.

Read if you:

  • Want to make easy conversation with avid readers.
  • Looking for a well-written but not a difficult read.
  • Enjoy learning about animals and sea voyages.

Don’t Read if you:

  • Expect a life-altering lesson on religious tolerance.
  • Saw the movie and know the whole story already.
  • Crave a lot of action throughout the book.

Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts below in the comments section!