2013 Reads: Three {Life of Pi - Yann Martel}

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I think The Life of Pi by Yann Martel falls into that category of "what hasn't been said about this book yet?" But, I really enjoyed this book, so i'm going to try.

I'm not going to lie. It has taken me years to finally get around to this book. I have picked it up, read a few chapters, and put it down at least five times. It never interested me, never hooked me. I would put it down in favor of something more exciting. But, with the release of the movie and the encouragement of some friends, I decided to give it a real go (it also helps that I put it on my TBR Challenge list, so there's that too!). 

Despite this, I'm really glad that I read it, and I'm really glad that I read it now. Right book, right time.   

The Life of Pi starts out simultaneously in India and Canada - the book is divided between the story Piscine "Pi" Molitor Patel is telling about his childhood, and the author's 'present day' interactions with the adult Pi. Pi's father is a zookeeper, his mother is wary of the current political state of India, his brother is a cricket star, and Pi loves stories and is a fervent practicer of Christianity, Islam, and his native Hinduism. When the political situation gets too much for his parent's to handle, they decide to emigrate to Canada. They travel aboard a Japanese cargo ship with the remainder of their animals that would find a new home in North America. 

The ship sinks and Pi finds himself thrown onto a lifeboat by some of the ship's crew. Unbeknownst to him he has a few companions - a zebra with a broken leg, an adult male hyena, an orangoutang, and an adult male Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After a few weeks, all that remains on the lifeboat are Richard Parker and Pi. And Pi finds himself not only fighting for his own survival, but that of Richard Parker as well. 

This story is mostly that of Pi & Richard Parker lost at sea for 227 days.  Pi's cunning, zoological knowledge, and resourcefulness are what helps him overcome the day-to-day monotony and the catastrophic events that come with being lost at sea for so long, and above that - lost at sea with a 450 pound tiger for a companion. 

Life of Pi is a realistic exploration of survival in the most insane conditions. But it is not only that. It is a beautifully written piece of literature that inspires with every turn of the page. Martel is a master story teller - you are fully present with Pi, feeling his emotions and sharing his needs. The interwoven religions Pi has latched onto, the telling of his relationship with Richard Parker, and the moving nature of what he has had to deal with are all major reasons why to have read this story. However, the genius of this story comes in the last few pages where Martel forces you to question everything you have read, he makes you realize that this book may not be quite what you thought it was all along. And that? That is amazing story telling. 

Such amazing storytelling that it took me a while to actually look up and see if it was fiction or not! I am not kidding in the slightest. I kept trying to convince my dad that it was based on a real story and he kept telling me I was nuts. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. Turns out, I am nuts. But, I chose to believe that it's because it was told so well that I believed this for so long. It also helps that the "author's note" tells you that this is a firsthand account from Pi. And I believed him. Silly girl, Courtney, silly girl. 

I've found that this book means something different to each person who reads it. There is a rich philosophy imbedded in every detail, a religious and moral undertone should you chose to take them in. But nothing is forced on the reader, you take the story as you want to take it - it's all up to you. 

So, yes, you ought to read this. And then, please, come back here and tell me what it meant to you. 

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Medium: Soft Cover
Pages: 401
Date Read: 13 January 2013
First Line: My suffering left me sad and gloomy.
Favorite Line: 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? 
Last Line: Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger. [whited out, for spoiler's sake]
Recommended: Yes, very much so!
Recommended For: High School and up, lovers of a good adventure story, anyone really. 
Source: I bought this ages ago. Where? No idea.
Challenges: Goodreads, Off the Shelf Challenge, TBR Pile Challenge


  1. This book has been on my list for years. Incredibly, it grows every year . . . which makes any progress feel negated, ha!

  2. Such a great book.

    Like you said, right book right time. I was surprised when I read it last year because I heard it was "boring", but I found the story of Pi to be completely moving and interesting. Richard Parker is the best book character ever! I cried like a baby when their journey was over; great storytelling, I guess.

    By the way, you're not the only one that thought it was a real story, so don't feel bad about it :)

  3. I really loved this book too. I had no problem getting sucked in - but maybe I was in the mood for it? (I know my mom had the HARDEST time getting sucked in, and finally gave up...nothing wrong with that, I guess.) I, also, loved the way this book made you question everything you read. Personally, I liked to take the story literally rather than figuratively. I feel, why should I doubt the word of Pi? But perhaps this is because I tend to read more fantasy than most readers of literary novels do. :) A lot of my more literary friends seemed a little miffed at my interpretation! ;)


Thank you all so much for your comments! I'm only happy when I have comments. Really. You are contributing to my future happiness right now! XOXO