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Showing 1-10 of 3,788 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 6,928 reviews
on September 13, 2017
I just finished the book. What an amazing story, amazing writer. While reading, I was no longer sitting in my reading chair with book in hand. I was on the life boat, the raft, with Pi and living his adventure with him. No, I was him. The ending, well, I won’t discuss the ending so as not to spoil the story for someone else, but I will say that it was perfect and very satisfying and made me smile. I’ve never read a book like this one. It will stay with me, another good friend residing on my bookshelf. Thank you Yann Martel.
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on March 23, 2015
I actually resisted reading this book for quite some time. Frankly, just the premise gave me flashbacks to reading "The Old Man and the Sea" in high school english class - an ordeal which the mere thought of causes my eyes to glaze over and my brain to cease higher function. Hemingway fan, I am clearly not.

Of course, my reluctance proved to be entirely unfounded. Life of Pi is absolutely, unquestionably, one of the best books I've ever read. I'm tempted to begin it again immediately, it was that good. :) There are layers of richness here that doubtless will continue to unfold with repeated readings. It offers adventure, tragedy, trivia, spirituality, and humor, all in a seamless narrative. I was only sorry for the story to end!

As an added note, my version of Life of Pi is the Kindle Whispersync edition, and I listened to parts of it in audiobook format. The narrator is hands down one of the best I've ever come across, and added so much to my experience that when I switched back to the Kindle format, I kept hearing his voice in my head. To Jeff Woodman, I offer a standing ovation. :)
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on November 13, 2012
Other than knowing this was a story about a boy and a tiger in a life-boat I knew nothing else whatsoever about Pi or his life. Yann Martel's "Life of Pi", is a wonderful story, beautifully written and at times beguiling and teasingly thought provoking. This "true story" with its youthful honesty gathers the reader into it's core and quietly gains our trust right from the outset.

The book is written in a thoroughly believable biographical manner from a young boy's perspective and I think it's that aspect which makes it really work. It does not surprise me to subsequently find out that so many who have read it believe it to be a true story; the zoological & scientific data given is convincing and grounded in its delivery even when we are wildly rolling along on the high seas with a ferocious Bengal tiger in a small lifeboat! Often comic yet at the same time horrific it feels like we are at the center of a Shakespearean black comedy. As with all good stories it keeps the reader engaged from cover to cover. I was captivated and couldn't get enough. Pi's circumstances would niggle away at me and I had to find out what happened next.

The allegorical twist at the end was not anything I expected and was wonderfully executed, the way it brings the reader full circle on the religious undercurrent running through the story was like a well executed sleight of hand and true to the rest of the book in that it was still entirely believable. For me this turned what was a great story-telling package into a classic novel. I can envisage generations of school-children having their intellect challenged and their view of the world turned on its head with the ideas presented in this book.

This is a "must-read" book and best fictional book in a long time for me.
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on June 13, 2013
Yann Martel's "Life of Pi" is a story about a young man's will to survive against all odds. The story of Piscine Patel (Pi Patel) begins when he is a young boy in Pondicherry, India and takes you across the ocean to Canada in the worst way imaginable. The 227 day journey across the ocean with some interesting shipmates is gory at times, but lifts the reader's mood with some great moments between Pi and one of his guests... a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Martel begins his story by introducing us to young Piscine Molitor Patel and his life with his family growing up. Piscine invented his own nickname, Pi, when cruel kids at school called him "Pissing Patel." Pi's father is a successful zoo owner and this provides him with a unique relationship to exotic animals. He learns about the animals and their mannerisms, which at the time he didn't know how beneficial this would be. His father's zoo is where he meets his lifeboat companion, Richard Parker, a nearly 500 pound Bengal tiger. Pi had a little bit of religious confusion growing up; he enjoyed several different belief systems and practiced all of them. It is my belief that these religions helped in his survival. Pi's father eventually sells the zoo and moves his family to Canada, but this would come at a huge cost. During the trip aboard a Japanese cargo ship they encounter a storm at sea. The boat capsizes and Pi finds himself in the middle of the ocean with some unique company. Aboard the lifeboat with Pi was an Orangutan named Orange Juice, a wounded zebra, a hyena and of course Richard Parker.

Martel's exposition sets up the main part of the story wonderfully with several details about the animals and Pi's life. These details lay a solid foundation and provide the reader with a personal relationship to Pi, making his struggles meaningful. Surviving for 227 days at sea is seemingly impossible and with animals being animals (doing what it takes to survive) it created a dangerous and trying journey for Pi. After several days at sea, Pi is left alone with one animal, Richard Parker, and it is the one animal Pi feared the most. The part of story with Richard Parker is intriguing, making the book very hard to put down. Pi develops a plan to tame Richard Parker and after the tiger is somewhat tamed, they began to share a mutual respect for each other. Each individual understood that they needed one another to survive and both are willing to accept that. Pi develops efficient ways to collect water and food for him and Richard Parker and their journey together is nothing short of exciting all the way through.

Shortly after land was found in Mexico, Pi is interviewed by two men from the company that owned the Japanese cargo ship. Pi told them of his tragic, but exciting story and they refused to believe it. Eventually Pi gives in and tells them a different story, one without the amazing tales of survival and near death experiences. It is up to the reader now to believe which story is the truth.

This book won the Man-Booker Prize in 2002 and was Yann Martel's fourth book.
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on December 25, 2012
I borrowed this book from the library by looking at the cover and thinking I could really enjoy a good adventure story. Something light and nothing that I had to think about much. Just a fun book. None of that happened. None. I almost took the book back after about 35 pages. The intent of the book was murky and it didn't seem to be going anywhere I wanted to go. I had just read a book about current the economic structure of America by a Nobel Prize author, "The Price of Inequality". It was good but it was not light reading. I was not prepared for a lengthy discussion of religion and the various branches of religion. But I got into the rhythm of the story and by 50 pages I was hooked. This has been called a simple story and I do not agree. It is a masterful, even elegant, tiered tale that is played out in a small volume of space. The thoughts and ideas, the issues and the adaptations are rich and dense.

I make a connection with two movies. 12 Angry Men, and Lifeboat by Alfred Hitchcock. Both are about critical survival issues played out in a small, sometimes claustrophobic setting. Both highlight the way essential decisions are made and how we use natural talents and whatever comes to hand to meet needs. All three end with an unexpected trust.

I liked this small story. I have just bought the book because it will be read more than once.
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on September 16, 2017
Great story until the shipwreck, especially in the discussion of Pi's spiritual quest; however, the extremely detailed description of Pi's struggle for survival mostly ignored Pi's spiritual nature. The ending was anticlimactic.
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on April 14, 2013
Warning: This review may contain some spoilers

Why do we choose to tell the stories that we tell in the way that we tell them? Is it to portray unembellished reality or do we chose our narrative in service to a deeper purpose? In the novel Life of Pi, Yann Martel suggests that stories are how we find meaning in the universe; they are a path to God. Martel's characters tell stories that provide comfort, explain hardship, and provide inspiration without being literally factual. The author takes pains to remind the reader that the book itself is a work of fiction and that the literal representation of the truth is not his priority. In fact, Martel seems to say that sometimes we must abandon literal truth if we want to find meaning in the universe. If we fail to look beyond the literal truth in search of something deeper, we will "lack imagination and miss the better story"--we may fail to find God (Martel, 2007, p. 64).

Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi, is the titular character of the novel. The book's central conflict is Pi's struggle to survive while adrift at sea in a lifeboat after his ship sinks. He must endure against elemental forces, lack of food and fresh water, and stave off despair. However, on top of these very serious challenges, he must also deal with the fact that he is not alone in the life boat. For most of his ordeal, his only companion is a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker: a wild and untamed creature that could easily kill him at any time. However, this is not a simple survival story where the tension comes from wondering if the main character will manage to triumph over adversity. Even before we know a single detail of his ordeal, Martel assures us that Pi is alive and well, living an almost ordinary life. At the same time, he assures us that this is "a story to make you believe in God" (Martel, 2007, Author's Note). Much of the tension of the book comes in discovering what the author means by this.

On the surface, this is a survival story. However, this is not really a book about Pi's ordeal at sea; it is about the telling of the story of Pi's ordeal at sea. In the course of the narrative, there are at least five different times that one character tells the story to another. We are only privy to the details of two of these exchanges; the others occur "off stage." However, after each one, Martel shows us the impact hearing the tale has on the listeners. We get the sense that nobody is truly the same after hearing it. This is true even though the two versions of the story we see are mutually contradictory. By this, Martel demonstrates that it is not necessarily the literal truth of a tale that makes it meaningful. There is some other aspect of the story that makes it meaningful.

In the Author's Note, Martel calls fiction "the selective transforming of reality" and says that writers create it "for the sake of greater truth" (Martel, 2007, Author's Note). This note is where the narrative actually starts; it is part of the fiction Martel has created, not something that lives apart from the rest of the book. The character of the author appears throughout the book in a series of interludes within Pi's narrative. Martel uses these recollections to describe the man Pi has become and how the events of the story have changed him. The author also uses them to heighten the mystery about what exactly transpired in the lifeboat. He makes numerous references to events that have not yet been shared with the reader, foreshadowing the action to come.

Martel devotes most of the book to telling Pi's preferred account of his ordeal. This is a story that focuses on both the practical day-to-day details of his survival and his internal struggle to retain his faith in a higher power. The account is striking in both its realism and its utter implausibility. Even if we ignore the improbability of being able to survive on a lifeboat with an untamed Bengal tiger for 277 days, there are many other aspects of Pi's story that are hard to believe. We know this because Martel takes pains to have other characters, such as the shipping agents who hear the tale, point out the implausibility of these aspects. Details such as encountering another lifeboat at random in the Pacific midway through the journey, finding an almost magical floating island, and just the act of being able to survive in a lifeboat for 277 days are all highlighted as being hard to believe. However, this is not the only account of the events that Pi offers. He tells an alternative version of the events that is just as brutal and unforgiving as the other, but far more plausible. In this story, many more things make sense. Pi's actions are selfish, even if excusable. His thoughts are about survival, revenge, and satisfying his hunger, not his relationship with God. This version has only ugliness; it offers no meaning. Pi tells the shipping agents both of these stories and offers them a choice; the author does the same for the reader.

Pi seems to prefer the version of the story where he finds meaning because that is something he craves. Earlier in his narrative, he describes how his search for meaning caused him to become a Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu, all at the same time. Each of these religions tells stories that explain the universe; they provide meaning and comfort. Pi embraces all of them. He feels no need or obligation to choose between these mutually exclusive stories. Why should he choose? The author told us in the Author's Note that stories are selective transformations of reality for the sake of greater truth. Pi craves this truth; he wants to know God and not restrict himself to "dry, yeastless factuality" (Martel, 2007, p. 64).

For the most part, both versions of Pi's narrative have the same elements; each of the fanciful aspects of the first narrative has a corresponding aspect in the second narrative that is tragically believable. However, there is a key part of the first narrative that does not appear in the second one: the floating island. This is the least plausible portion of Pi's first narrative. The island is an idyllic place (at least at first) with almost magical properties. It is wholly absent from the second narrative. This is a mystery within a mystery; the shipping company representatives he tells the story to give up trying to understand it. We are left to wonder if it points to a gap in Pi's second story, a piece that explains how a man could survive that long at sea. On the other hand, maybe it does not appear in the second story because it was literally true and needed no amendment. We are left to wonder.

Martel is careful to leave the door open for both interpretations of the story. For instance, one of the shipping representatives calls the island a botanical impossibility (Martel, 2007, p. 294). However, the representatives had also just assured Pi that the floating island of bananas that appeared earlier in the story was similarly impossible, an assertion that Martel shows proven wrong (Martel, 2007, p. 293). In this way, Martel hints that if the representatives were mistaken about one floating island, they might be mistaken about another. If one thing that is hard to believe is possible, perhaps another incredible thing also can be so. Even when we are convinced we know what happened, Martel reminds us that we should have doubt. The author tells us how he has read the diary that Pi kept during his ordeal. In it, we are shown Pi questioning his relationship with God. This is the Pi of the first story, not the survival obsessed pragmatist of the second one. There is always reason to doubt.

Why does Martel tell this story in the way that he does? Why is this not a simple linear narrative of a boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger? Martel tells the tale this way because he wants the reader to face the same choices that his characters face. He uses a complex structure of narratives within narratives in order to create ambiguity. The reader is left to decide what really happened. Do we choose the version of events with meaning, or the one with plausibility? Which one do we prefer? Is the "more plausible story" truly plausible? Martel refuses to give us definitive answers to these questions. Martel uses the plot and structure of the book to show that it does not matter if either is true. It does not matter if the author invented this story or if, as he says, it was told to him. What matters is the meaning we choose to give the story as readers.

Work Cited

Martel, Yann (2007). Life of Pi (Kindle Edition). New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Original work published 2001)
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on January 30, 2013
I finished this book just after midnight last night. It took me several hours to fall asleep as my mind examined and re-examined the symbolism that is so abundant throughout this book.

This is a story of survival on the high seas. If you only see it on that level, it is a fun adventure. But what makes it so powerful is that there is so much more.

It is an allegory about the monsters we see in ourselves, the depths to which we are willing to go to survive. But it is also about the beauty in our world, the power of hope, the miracles of life, the terrors of death.

It is also about the power of a story, a fable, a myth. What truths do we cling to? Do we really know what is true, and how is truth changed by the filters of our perception?

I don't often reread books but this is one I definitely want to read again. Near the end, on the island and also when he goes blind, I started feeling like it had reached a level where it was too unbelievable. Yet, in the light that the final ending casts, it makes those parts even more amazing. It is those parts in particular, that I would like to revisit the most.

This book is a masterpiece that I haven't yet fully wrapped my mind around. I absolutely love it.
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on April 26, 2013
I knew very little about The Life of Pi before I began to read it. I knew only that it was about a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger, and that it was highly recommended to me. I bought the book probably two years ago, and it sat on the shelf, continually pushed aside by other acquisitions. Recently, I began to see previews of the movie based upon the book, and my interest was renewed. It seemed a foregone conclusion that I would see the movie; I should read the book before I saw it - a habit I have tried to follow, though at times I am wholly unsuccessful.

The version I had purchased was the illustrated version, featuring paintings of certain scenes described in the book. As I understand, there was a contest to compete for the honor of illustrating the novel, and Tomislav Torjanac won the prize. To be honest, the illustrations did little for me; I cannot specifically recommend the illustrated version moreso than the non-illustrated one. They did not detract from the experience, but in my opinion only marginally enhanced it.

The book is in three parts: before, during and after the time spent in the lifeboat. The majority of the book is in part two, and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised - given such a limited setting - at how fresh the content was. Part one was very fun to read, as it provided a wealth of background information regarding the business of running a zoo, and how this business is viewed by a young child. Part two was an exciting adventure, fraught with terror and anxiety, as well as a nice insight into the ingenuity of young Pi. Whether his actions are believable for someone of such young age, I leave to the reader to determine for themselves. Part three has a fantastically ingenious twist in it that gives the reader a new perspective on the story just concluded.

I heartily enjoyed this book, and burned through it quite quickly.
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on April 14, 2013
I've heard people say it's something most would have thought would be "impossible to adapt into a movie." It's not nearly intelligent enough to be difficult to adapt into a movie. It's trying to be, but it fails on every level. The only element of the story with so much as the POTENTIAL to be interesting is the bit about Pi faithfully devoting himself to three different religions... an aspect of his character that is never revisited after the first quarter of the book. The kid-in-a-boat-with-a-tiger bit is nothing but an abridged version of Poe's "Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" with a tiger for no reason and an inexplicable... carnivorous meerkat island-creature... thing.

Honestly it seems like the author read Arthur Gordon Pym while watching The Lion King and decided to write his own Guy In A Boat story, doing the rest of his research by watching "Big Cat Diary" and visiting a zoo once or twice. Also he happened to have a cookbook of Indian food in the house, apparently.

I remember seeing this book many times in the bookstore and finding the cover intriguing but always inevitably deciding it wasn't worth reading. I finally read it as a challenge after being told by several friends how disappointing it was, and by another that it was really good. Challenge accepted -- I had to decide for myself.

I have decided that it is a weak, disjointed disaster of an untidy narrative that flirts with some ideas and situations that COULD have been interesting if they had been explored in any particular depth, but there are too many themes and too many situations that fail to become a single cohesive story in the end, and are frankly annoying in how overly simplified they are.

This book reads like cliff notes of better books all tossed into a grade schooler's attempt to make Calvin and Hobbes into an epic adventure story... an attempt that succeeds only in missing its own point every time.
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