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Life of Pi Paperback – Black & White, May 1, 2003
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
"Life of Pi could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life."— The New York Times Book Review
"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction."— Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A gripping adventure story . . . Laced with wit, spiced with terror, it's a book by an extraordinary talent."— St. Paul Pioneer-Press
"A terrific book . . . Fresh, original, smart, devious, and crammed with absorbing lore."— Margaret Atwood
"An impassioned defense of zoos, a death-defying trans-Pacific sea adventure a la Kon-Tiki, and a hilarious shaggy-dog story . . . : This audacious novel manages to be all of these." — The New Yorker
"Readers familiar with Margaret Atwood, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields should learn to make room on the map of contemporary Canadian fiction for the formidable Yann Martel." — Chicago Tribune
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However, I wanted to add a warning. The second half of the book is very gruesome and can get a bit tedious with details, sometimes VERY GRUESOME and TEDIOUS with details! It is only the second book I have ever read that I prefer the movie to the book. It has the "heart" of the book without showing all the gore.
That said, I DO recommend the book. I sobbed, smiled and more. Just not for everyone. You'll definitely remember it awhile after reading.
That being said this book did not tickle my fancy. It may be because I am a lover of thrillers, and writing that thrusts you through the chapters. This is a book for those who love the journey and don't care to rush to the end. It came repeatedly recommended in my searches for 'books with the best plot twists', which is how it fell into my hands however what I assume was to be the plot twist was more of a bit of plot confusion. I'm still unsure of what really happened and what the real ending is.
I often found myself checking to see how many pages I had left, but admire Martel's ability to come up with ways to keep the plot moving forward on 227 days stranded in the Pacific Ocean. An inspirational tale of survival, endurance, resilience and faith but one I would expect to read for a literature class and not voluntarily in my free time.
Yann Martell manages to tell the same man vs. nature themed story in a completely new fashion, loaded with questions about life and death, beliefs, family and spirituality. Survival stories remind us not only that life is worth living but that we can cling to the desire to live as long as we can find a reason to keep fighting, what if the reason to stay alive is life itself? Pi shows us that sometimes it is when we lose everything that we might find ourselves.
I’m hesitant to define this tale as a religious one yet it is deeply spiritual. Pi has a great heart and his soul (his mind, if you rather) craves for knowledge, both physical which is made clear by his interest in zoology and metaphysical which leads him to approach religion. Aristotle said that “All men by nature desire to know” and Pi’s desire to know is nothing else that this natural desire common to all humankind.
I believe that what makes Pi different from other boys (and men) is the fact that he is able to realise that both the physical and metaphysical knowledge are rooted in a common true. The spiritual search of Pi is not the search of someone trying to find a messiah, nor of someone looking for a new lifestyle; it is a pursue of a higher truth. That’s the reason why he can be a pious Hindu. And Muslim. And Catholic. Because he understands that both three religions convey a true message. “I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims”.
Martell gives you a novel with a powerful insight of a very smart and pious boy who clings to life while coexisting with a tiger in the middle of the sea. The words are overwhelming by the deep meaning they convey and at the same time beautifully used to describe an imposing scenario.
This is a book totally worth reading, I totally enjoyed it from beginning to end, loved the characters, yes, it might be a little slow at first and the time spent in the sea to long, but it’s definitely worth it.
Life of Pi takes place in 1970's India where we get the story of Pi growing up in a zoo. The book continues with Pi ending in a shipwreck and having to share a lifeboat with a tiger.
The way Martel tells the story is very interesting. There's the parallel story of Martel himself going to visit an older Pi who tells the story that we are now reading. There's the occasional zoology lesson interspersed and an examination of faith. All this combined with the brutality of surviving in the Pacific Ocean. All of this is told through Pi, through Martel, through Pi which makes it quite a third hand telling.
The ending is however genius as it completely flips the story on its head and you might have a revelation from it.
Overall a great read, and be sure to catch the movie as well!
Top international reviews
Too many books I've come across lately lack any emotional or philosophical depth, so it was lovely to read something so whimsical and heart-felt. The story is incredibly simple - a boy survives a ship wreck and finds himself on a lifeboat with a bengal tiger - which leaves a LOT of room for emotional and philosophical exploration. Probably too much room.
It opens wonderfully, painting an imaginative and technicolour picture of Pi's life and family that draws you into his world. Sadly, any momentum is then lost in the following tedious exploration of religious context spanning many, many chapters. So the boy worships many gods; a funny joke told too many times, before the punchline is explained in excruciating detail.
Once castaway, the story picks up again. The first half of this adventure is packed with variety and answers to those "what if" questions that naturally spring to mind. After a while, though, it just gets boring. I started looking at the progress bar at the bottom of my kindle, willing it to come to an end.
I had mixed feelings about the ending. While I was reading it, I was cursing Martel for dragging it out needlessly. But by the time I'd finished it, I totally understood why he had to.
Ultimately, there are some damp patches throughout, but it starts well and ends well, with a few really nice set-pieces in between. It also leaves you with some great "what do you think really happened" discussion material when it's all over.
How foolish I was.
Life of Pi is an extraordinary 3D adventure.
It is a film I will forever remember.
With astonishing visual effects, showing what it means to be human, and a remarkable storyline between the two central characters, Life of Pi is unquestionably a great film.
I fully recommend this film for it is so much more than a film.
It is an experience.
The book starts with an "authors note" which places the mood and source of the story. Plenty of seeds are sown here and the spiritual setting is created. Throughout the book we hear more from the author as he gets to find out Pi's story.
Scene setting dominates the first third of the book and Pi is established, then the boat sinks and the story simply starts to fly.
I savoured this book, the writing is beautiful and seems to demand that you read it slowly, taking in every word. Pi had an endless amount of time at sea and wants the reader to understand that the progress of time means nothing compared to the compulsion to survive.
Even having seen the film and having fairly high expectations, I was blown away by the relationship between boy and tiger with its simplicity and complexity on many different levels.
We know that Pi survives from the beginning of the book which gives a calm to our experience of his journey and I somehow wanted his progression (physically and spiritually) to continue forever.
The book is full of wonderful quotes but one of my favourites is " Fiction is the selective transforming of reality" - somehow seems to sum up this book wonderfully.
Then I started reading it.
My opinion was slowly changed over the first few chapters. This book is beautifully written without being pretentious. The author describes scenes and events in a way that makes them easy to imagine and worth picturing in your mind as though you were there. Often a film will outdo a book on the fact that it can show beautiful scenery that can't easily be described in words. If that is the case here then I can't wait to see the film because to outdo the imagery possible from this book it will need to be spectacular.
The first third of the book builds up the character of Piscine (Pi) and often goes into details of religion. It never goes so far as to preach in any way though. It doesn't say that any one religion is, overall, better than any other. It is even funny when an argument breaks out regarding the subject. I am atheist but I am also fascinated by religion so maybe that was why I didn't find this section of the story boring. I can, however, see why some people would and would only urge them to persevere because the book picks up considerably afterwards.
The idea of a boy being stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger and a few other animals sounds ridiculous. That someone could write a book based on this event and make it interesting is almost unbelievable. How can you write so much about such a small group of characters trapped in a miniscule almost featureless setting and keep people from falling asleep? I had wondered whether all of the animals would start talking because I went into this book with no idea of how the characters interacted with each other. The answer again lies in the authors ability to describe everything so amazingly well. Whether it is about the confines and yet territorially broken up small boat, the vast emptiness of the ocean, the beauty and terror of the weather, the despair of being alone, the elation of discovering a way to continue surviving, or the fear of, and respect for, a 450 pound tiger, it is stunningly written.
Different people will interpret the words in different ways too. Some will read it is an adventure with a bit of survival ingenuity thrown in; some might read it as a kind of spiritual journey giving events a religious meaning; others could interpret it as a view of life itself. The way it is written means that there will be different parts where readers suddenly think, "Ahhhh! So that's what the author is trying to say." I personally had my moment of realisation, (I won't say at what point), and saw it as an interpretation of life. Everyone has there own little area in a vast world, with their own hopes and fears, their own limited provisions, their own moments of suddenly working out how to do something, their own loneliness and their own dark times and light times. You may read it and find some other explanation. That is what this book does. It leaves you to make up your mind, and it does it not out of laziness. Some readers have been disappointed by the ending. I thought it was great. In one respect it answered everything and yet, in another respect, left me wondering about whether it was a definite answer or not.
Life of Pi falls into a small group of things that are surprising in their brilliance. The film "Buried" is another, where the director managed to make ninety minutes of a man in a buried coffin with just a lighter and a phone compulsive viewing. Another film, "Lebanon", is similar. The entire film is viewed from the confines of a tank with its four occupants trying to get away from trouble after taking a wrong turn. In a similar, but also unique way, Life of Pi also turns a cramped scene into a fantastic story. Those who read this book will remember it for a long time afterwards. It has certainly gone down as one of the greatest books I have ever read.
Stunning! The best 20p I am ever likely to spend.
There aren’t many recently published books I’ve read that have made me think, “this is destined to become a classic” but with Pi I think it very well might be. An excellent read and a beautiful twist at the end that leaves you wanting to pick it up and start all over again. If you’ve not read it yet, in a way I envy you. It’s just one of those rare stories that you discover that I wish I could delight in again for the first time.
Then I got to the part where he's in the boat and this is where I found the story start to drag and get unbelievable. I was ready to give up at this point but realised I was nearly half way through the book and since I'd read that far I might as well finish. This was where I started skip reading chapters, although some were good and I would read the whole chapter, some were just repetitive, boring and off no relevance in my opinion.
Eventually reading the whole book, the only emotion I felt was relief it was over! I wasn't sure where everyone was getting this thought provoking from, it didn't produce any in me except how did it get so many good reviews! I felt the ending was a let down and too contrived. The only reason it has 2 stars except 1 is that some chapters were an interesting read.
So leaving aside the film director's problems and reviewing it as a book, my immediate conclusion is that it is indeed a 'great' book. Why? Simple yard-sticks really: it starts out as an engaging, entrancing story, but as readers and characters get cast adrift on the ocean you find yourself wrestling with what this is all about, what you're meant to think and what is actually happening, then when you've raced to the end of the tale, it stays with you long after you've closed the book.
Saying too much about Pi's journey is unnecessary and may involve spoilers, but suffice it to say, for something that can be summarised as "two castaways adrift at sea for over two hundred days" it's interest and interpretations extend far beyond the gunnels of a twenty six foot long life-boat. This is a story about belief, faith and survival - so either accept my version of events or read it yourself and make your own mind up.
However, a few things genuinely puzzle me. I finished this book smiling but entirely unsure what the message was supposed to be. Is his argument for believing in god entirely based on the premise that everything is nicer and fuzzier if you believe in something, irrelevant of whether it is true? That doesn't strike me as particularly profound, even with the excellent example this story is for that idea. Yes, it is much nicer and fuzzier to imagine a story of animals on a boat rather than people dying horrible deaths, but that does nothing to make the people dying horrible deaths not true. That is basically an 'ignorance is bliss' argument, which is fine, but can you actively choose to be ignorant? Confusing.
I also felt a bit uncomfortable with the constant assertions that animals are better off in zoos, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion...
So, enjoyable read, but it hasn't made me believe in god. Or even really understood why it should have made me believe in god.
In the first part of the book the discussions of India, religion, food (I actually tried some from the supermarket, and they were good), fascinated me. I went to a church of England school which put a much greater emphasis of Christianity then other religions. While I left this without much of a religious leaning I was drawn to the comparisons within this book.
In the second half of the novel Pi finds himself adrift with a tiger in a boat. Not the best of prospects! There are stretches ere where very little changes in the manner of external plot, and yet this was possibly the part that drew me in the most. Discussions of how Pi would deal with day to day needs, or watching as his mental state slowly altered.
The foreword to the book states it will make you believe in God. While that was not the case for me it did make me curious to find out more.
This is a novel with a plot and genre that are hard to define, but it is incredible. I think everybody should read this, and do so with an open mind
Quite simply one of the best books I have read and now in my top five, along with Anna Karenina, Birdsong, The Places in Between and anything by Dickens.
It is a story of hope, faith, determination, tenacity and endurance over an almost unbelievable set of circumstances and adversity.
A teenage Indian boy, Pi, finds himself shipwrecked in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Pi's chief adversary, and at the same time his saviour, is a young adult male Bengal tiger with whom he shares, at times, the lifeboat. The relationship that the two develop over two hundred and twenty seven days in the middle of the ocean with a brief sojourn on a floating island inhabited by meerkats, forms the bulk of the story.
One learns much about the keeping of animals in zoos and animal behaviour when a relationship with man is enforced upon them. This turns classic critical thinking about this subject on its head and gets you thinking, as does much else about this book.
Whilst definitely a unique book, its style reminds me of Philip Pullman novels, which similarly can be taken at surface and face value, or can be dived into and their deeper meaning enjoyed and cogitated upon. It thus a fable.
Really a must read. Buy this book you will not be disappointed.
Following the sinking of his ship, Pi finds himself alone with the tiger, an organutan, hyena and zebra. After a while only the tiger remains to keep him company, but this is no fairy tale with a talking tiger (as I thought it would be) - this tiger is real and ferocious and the story of how Pi survives for 227 days is gripping and believable. There is some wonderful writing - after battering his first fish to death it shimmers different colours over its scales in its death throes - "I felt like I was beating a rainbow to death". It's funny and moving and religion plays a big part, but is not rammed down our throats and we are left to make up our own minds. The mysterious Richard Parker flits ellusively through the first part of the book and we are left to guess how he will impact the story - very well done and funny too.
I re-read this prior to watching the film and enjoyed it as much 2nd time around, which is as high praise as I can give. The film is a decent shot at the book, which I thought was fairly unfilmable, but do read the book first.
Unlike some other reviewers, I found the most satisfactory part of the book the preliminary chapters of Pi's life in India, with its thought provoking insights into life, the universe and everything. However...when it comes to being adrift in a small boat in the Pacific Ocean, the endless, obsessive and sometimes (if you are a vegetarian) nauseating details of surviving each day when you don't know where your next meal is coming from, or that you may also become the next meal of the dear tiger, Richard Parker, irritating and tiresome. Page after page of tedious details, which oddly, if it were the real life memoirs of a shipwreck survivor, would probably be fascinating, detract from the emotional and spiritual tenor of the book.
Although the tiger is nature red in tooth and claw, giving it a name - the result of a clerical error at the zoo in India - is clever. Because, like a family pet, it immediately becomes something special in the eyes of its 'owner' who cares for it and bestows love on it. To summarise the book: 'All life is sacred'
The books starts in India and young Pi's life in a zoo. As this is a human tail, the story ambles along at a gentle pace covering Pi's relationships with friends, family, and to some extent the animals. In fact there is a lot of detail around the animals and whether it is fair, or right, to keep them in cages.
However, it's the detail of the writing which should encourage you to stick with the book. Consider the sights, sounds and smells as Pi grows up.
Eventually we move the main event - Pi being stranded on a lifeboat with Richard Parker (a Bengal Tiger). Again, it's interesting to read, but as I said it's a human story (or a human and animal)as is not action packed. After all not a lot can happen in a lifeboat, even with a tiger aboard.
Still, for those who have not seen the film, or know the story, I would recommend the book because of it's unusual style, because of the unusual story, and because of Mantels decriptive writing.
It is a very, very good book, but may not be for everyone. For those who love reading for the sake of reading, it's a gem.
The story about an Indian boy who spent his childhood at his fathers zoo and was shipwrecked while transporting the family and some of the animals to their new life in Canada.
The boy was trapped for about two years with several animals including a tiger in a standard lifeboat with emergency provisions and this is the story of his survival.
The description of his voyage and many battles is very detailed and vivid and you tend to suspend belief and live the adventures with him.
I found the first 75% of the novel gripping and vaguely believable, but the last 25% seemed to spin off into fantasy and spoiled the illusion for me.
I would have liked a different ending even if it meant the death of our hero.
Also I would not recommend reading this book close to mealtimes, as the sea survival menu is not for the faint hearted.