Posted in Books

Book Review: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

About the author:
Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. After studying philosophy at university, he worked odd jobs before turning to writing. In addition to Life of Pi, he is the author of the novels Self and Beatrice & Virgil.

Cover and blurb:
A story about survival, in possibly extreme conditions, I feel it is narration and plotting that can make or break the story.

My thoughts:
I have always wanted to read this novel. But over the years, it has skipped my mind. Or perhaps I wasn’t as passionate about reading then as I am now. Having recently seen the movie, I decided it was finally time I stopped postponing it, and took the book to read. I wasn’t particularly happy about buying the film artwork cover, but the other covers seem to be out of stock always. I guess that is one way of selling the film and the book, but I feel a non-film cover should still be available. (The details at the end of this review point to the film tie-in cover, but I’m using a non tie-in one as image.)

While I wouldn’t say the book is infinitely better than the movie, I think the book is better than the movie. The story of a young boy who grows up in a zoo in Pondicherry with his father who’s the caretaker and owner of the zoo, his elder brother and mother, Life of Pi puts believability to the test. Can we believe that a young boy can survive for nearly a year in a boat in the middle of nowhere, with a little food and in the company of a Royal Bengal Tiger? No. Possibly not, but the story is about that survival. It is about how the young boy, Piscine (Pi) Patel, formerly an introvert and mercilessly teased lad in school, finds that courage inside himself to tackle the situation and come out on top. I took Richard Parker to be anything we fear, and are trapped with, and it felt like the story showed we can come out successful against that fear as well. The hyena eating the zebra, the orangutan fighting for its life, then Richard Parker killing the hyena all felt like “survival of the fittest.” I liked the philosophy.

That being said, the initial part of the book, with them in India, felt a bore at times, with too much on Pi’s religion confusion. It didn’t work for me. Maybe that’s why the movie had a little extra in it, with a new character to bring some spice to Pi’s life. The part where the two brothers are taken on a personal experience that almost all animals are dangerous felt real, and the mirror at the zoo was a nice touch, both leading to the contrast toward the end, where Pi asserts himself as the stronger animal, than the 450 pound Bengal tiger. The evenness in the tone of narration puts across a nonchalant feeling, as if Pi, in his flashback, doesn’t actually feel anything for the past, he’s no longer in that moment, where he was exhilarated. It felt right at times, but a little more oomph would have been nice perhaps.

I wouldn’t put this book as one of my absolute favorites to date, but it’s a good book nonetheless.

A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book details:
Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
ISBN: 978-0-85786-553-3
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Publishers: Canongate
Price: INR. 450


This book is a personal copy. No payment was taken for this review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with First Reads at b00k r3vi3ws.

(Aug 10th, 2013)


Poetry and writing are to me, a breath of fresh air in a life that is sometimes covered by the smoke of sorrow or self doubt. They also become the sweets I share to celebrate when life offers me a reason to. But most of all, they are to me, my life. For each word I write is a piece of my heart, a thought that just had to find its way into the world.

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