Life of Pi by Yann Martel Review

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Genre:  Literary Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Release Date: August 29th 2006

Pages: 460

 

In a rush? Scroll to the bottom for my snapshot thoughts!

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After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbling on the wild, blue pacific. The crew of the surviving vessel consists of a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan, a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger, and Pi – a 16 year old Indian boy.

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I can honestly say that this is one of my all-time favourite books. I didn’t see it coming, and I didn’t ever consider when starting that I’d feel such gratitude when I finished the last page, just to have been able to experience this story.

I think with some of our favourite stories, there has to be a spark, something not entirely objective that just attaches itself to you, and pushes the book and its characters just that bit deeper into your heart than others. I can’t explain what that spark was, but I’ll do my best to go through some of the tangible reasons I loved Life of Pi.

The writing style in this book is one of my favourites, one that is emotional and beautiful without trying too hard to be. This effortlessness was carried throughout the entire book, and made it an even more captivating read than if it had just relied on the plot. There are whole passages that just made me cry, including this one, which had me sobbing into my pillow at midnight:

It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day.

I’ve trimmed the passage down to non-spoilery content, but if you get the chance to read it in its entirety, it’s a killer.

The themes of Life of Pi were also extremely interesting to me, as the primary focus is on religion, and the relationship a person can have with their religion, but also religion as a concept. In the very beginning of the novel as we are given glimpses into Pi’s childhood and early adolescence, we follow his decision to become a practicing Hindu, Muslim, and Christian at the same time. His reasoning behind this decision and how it impacted his life was so interesting and complex, and though I may not have understood most of the references or may have missed some of the points he was making, I still found it fascinating. I wonder how different my experience would have been if I was religious (if you are religious and read the book, please let me know your experience, if you feel comfortable to!)

The ending of this book is also probably one of the best endings I’ve ever read. It wrapped up the message and theme of the book so poignantly, and created such an impact that I was clinging to the final few pages, trying to make them last. I had managed to avoid spoilers from the film and so that final reveal got me just as it was supposed to.

Though I did absolutely love reading Life of Pi, there are traumatising moments in the book that I had to skip, mostly with animals being hurt. There is an instance at the beginning of the book where a goat is fed to a tiger, and as is described in the synopsis, the zebra with the broken leg was difficult to read about. I think other than that, if you can deal with watching the wildlife channel as a lion picks off some gazelles, you’ll be okay.

Another way you might struggle with this book is that there isn’t a ton of dialogue, as it is just a boy in a boat with his animals, and so there are quite a few big chunks of text. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on conversations though, as the first person narration and writing style really made it feel like Pi was having those deep conversations with us as the readers, and so when he did speak aloud, it felt strange. I was intimidated by the continuous paragraphs but soon got used to it.

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IF YOU LIKE:

  • Deep, complex stories that will make you think.
  • Themes of religion without feeling preachy.
  • Beautiful writing.
  • An intimate relationship with the main character.
  • An ending that will satisfy you and break your heart.

Then this is the book for you!

IF YOU’RE NOT A FAN OF:

  • Survivalist stories.
  • Stories with a fixed setting (specifically, the ocean).
  • Minimal dialogue.
  • Trigger Warnings:
    • Gore
    • Grief
    • Animal trauma

Then maybe give it more thought before you pick this book up.

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I know that this a book that will stick with me for a long time and will probably revisit it in the next few years.

Have you read Life of Pi? How did you find it? Let me know and we can chat!

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