Book Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi- Yann Martell
Oh, Life of Pi, where do I start? We've all heard of it. We all know the basic boy-trapped-in-boat-with-tiger premise. We all know it's got a very, very good reputation. But, if you're anything like me, that is all you'll know. So I was pretty surprised when there was no tiger for a very, very long time.

In fact, the whole first part of the book seemed a bit slow to me. Pi, a young Indian boy, grows up unable to choose a religion. Instead he decides to be a practising Christian, Muslim and Hindu, and can't understand why everybody is so adamant that this is impossible. The comfort he finds in all religions is so natural to him that he can't help but identify with all three. So far, no tiger.

When he is a teenager, the family relocate to Canada, boarding a ship along with the animals from their family zoo. However, tragedy strikes and the ship sinks, leaving Pi as the only human survivor. Despite this, he does have an orangutan, hyena and zebra with a broken leg for company. Still no tiger.

And then comes the tiger. Floating uncontrollably in the Pacific, with only the ship's lifeboat and survival equipment to keep him alive, Pi chooses to live. Eventually the animals are killed off one by one, until only the tiger, Richard Parker, survives. Luckily Pi has knowledge of tigers due to his experience with the zoo, and manages to assert his authority so Richard Parker leaves him alone.

Despite the fact that there is only one character throughout the bulk of the book, Life of Pi manages to be a riveting and engaging read. In much the same way as Tom Hanks in Castaway, the monologues and "conversations" with Richard Parker (essentially playing the same role as Wilson) give the reader an insight into Pi's survival instincts and strategies. 

Initially, I was confused by the conclusion. After telling his story to two investigators who are conducting an inquiry into the ship's fate, Pi realises they don't believe him and retells the story only this time there are humans in the role of the animals, with Pi playing the part of Richard Parker. The reader is left wondering which is the true story. We want to believe the story with the animals, as it is so fantastical and almost mythical, even though the one with the humans makes more sense logically. Is Pi winding the investigators up? Does he truly believe he survived in a lifeboat with a tiger for almost a year? Or is it true after all?

Then I realised: Life of Pi is a story of belief and faith. Suddenly, the overlong introduction didn't seem so irrelevant. The overarching theme is that we need to be allowed to make our own decisions about our beliefs. We have no proof, so who is anyone to question us? Whatever it is you believe in, have faith in it. 


  1. I read this book while studying abroad in Ireland and adored it! I had to take some time to really let the ending sink in an give thought to the book as a whole, but in the end I loved it! One of my friends on the trip told me he reads it once a year and learns a new lesson from it every time. I definitely want to give it another read. I'm so glad you reviewed this one! I shared pretty much all of your views.
    <3 Mariah Alysz
    Rya Pie

  2. Oh wow this book sounds amazing, I really need to get around to reading it!

  3. I thought the beginning was a little slow too, but yeah, I really loved it. It makes you think, and I really love that in a book.


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