Reader reviews and comments on Life of Pi, plus links to write your own review.

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Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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  • First Published:
    May 2002, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2003, 336 pages

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Troy (12/18/04)

A beautifully written book that certainly succeeds as the book "with a never ending story" so desired by Pi during his ordeal; one he "could read again and again, with new eyes and a fresh understanding each time". As a spiritual being, I view this novel as food for the soul. It vividly describes the human condition as physical beings and more importantly as spiritual beings.
Obviously, I am a believer. This story, however, delivers insights to the atheist and the agnostic just as powerfully as it gives nourishment to those who believe in God. I have read many of the reviews here and find points of agreement with most of them though I have little patience with those who so obviously missed the manifold pearls of wisdom so wonderfully strewn throughout this tale.
Yann Martel displays his true genius as a writer by constructing this epic in such a way that both stories are equally credible. Some of the reviews favor one story over the other while a select few recognize that both stories are true. Two seperate realities coexist throughout this book though the physical reality is not openly revealed until part three. I feel this is the Great truth Martel seeks to convey, namely the way we give rationality to our existence through the seemingly irrational. This is truly a story from which you may take whatever you desire.
Anonymous (12/07/04)

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, to me was an interesting book. At first, I hated it, only because it was an assignment for an advanced class I was taking. After reading the entire book, I realized that I actually liked the book. I am not a religious type of person, at all, but this book brought things into perspective for me and made me think about certain things, I like that in a book. One thing i never understood, though, was the island, mysterious.

Kaitlyn (15 yrs.)
Elton (12/07/04)

The island is meant to symbolise the leap of faith that you have to take in order to get "the better story." It is a mirage shimmering just on the edge of what we are willing to believe and the investigators disbelief regarding the island shows our distancing from things beyond our experience, which is what being an agnostic is all about.
I like the idea that it should also be a symbol of organized religion that corrupts your soul and diverts your mind from the real principles of the religion - like love to God.
As I see it, the animals are there to represent different aspects of a human. Orange Juice is the maternal instinct, The hyena is our cowardly side and Richard Parker is our animal side/ will to live no matter what. Pi's struggle against Richard could be seen as Pi being unwilling to accept his animal side and he plans to push him in the ocean (the subconsciousness?). As humans we aspire to really high things but we're rooted in our animal condition.
I don't think it's important which story that's true. There told to show that by living in reality we interpret it, and the differences in our interpretations are just caused by our different beliefs. Pi interprets his journey through religion and gets a fantastic story, while trying to understand reality through cold facts will rob you of "the better story."
Rhonwyn (11/06/04)

Hi, I've never posted on this board before, but I found the discussion really interesting and just wanted to give my interpretation. Please bear in mind that it is only my interpretation and that I do not believe it is absolutely correct - one of the best things about the book is that it is so open.

I didn't think the question of which story was correct was important at all - after all, both are fictional - so we can see both as correct. I was fascinated by the idea that the tiger represented the "other side" of Pi, the side that is violent and self-serving, but that is unfortunately necessary for survival. I thought the book was saying that normally this part of us is dormant, but that in extreme situations - Pi on the lifeboat, it appears. All the detail of Pi trying to dominate Richard Parker represents our struggle against this.

I heard on another forum that someone thought Orange Juice/Pi's mother represented Hinduism, the zebra/sailor with the broken leg Christianity, and the hyena/cook Islam. This makes some sense, particularly the cook using parts of the sailor as bait - Islam does use elements of Christianity - but I don't really like this interpretation, because it portrays Islam as evil, which was not Martel's intention.

Someone also said that they thought the island represented Islam. it is green, and Pi says it is the colour of Islam. The meerkats all face the same way, like Muslims facing Mecca to pray. They are described as "meek", and meekness and submission before God is one of the ideals of Islam. The island being carnivorous and Pi's remarks about how staying would have destroyed his soul might portray Islam as a relgion that closes your eyes, makes you accept life as it is, and stop thinking for yourself. This might seem quite Islamophobic but I believe that people must have a right to criticise doctrines and religions.

I'm really curious what other people think the island was meant to symbollise...
Sarah (16) (10/14/04)

I found the beginning of the book quite slow. A good 'bed reader' during this paticular area to pick up when having problems sleeping.. you can fall asleep in no time. I found the discriptions of the animal eating animal quite disturbing. Part II of life of Pi I found was quite intresting although some repetition and talking i could of done without. The ending of Part II took a drastic change making it seem as if another book was accidently printed inside Life of Pi, though it did give a 'relief' and change of pace in the book. My favourite part overall was Part III, the humor was a good addition but Personally I'm still lost on who Pi was talking to in part II.

Overall I'd only recommend the book to certain readers because many would not be able to get through Part I or middle of Part II without skipping sections of putting the book down and moving on.
Suzanne M. (10/08/04)

The fact that certain events described in "Life of Pi" were bizarre and could never happen in real life did not bother me.

However, I found it a difficult read, and if it had not been a book club book, I'm not sure I would have finished it. For example, I like quotation marks around words that characters are saying out loud, and this book did not have those. Therefore, I was frequently confused in the beginning as to who was speaking at any given time, and whether the main character was thinking or speaking out loud. Portions of the book that graphically described animals eating other animals grossed me out, and I had to skip several pages of such descriptions. I was also bored by the pages describing this animal or that, and skipped several paragraphs of that sort as well, though I understand that they were an underlying current of the book and important to compare/contrast the human characters. I also personally did not like the ambiguity of the ending.

Other book club members loved the underlying philosophy of the book, and while there were flashes of inspired thought that I did appreciate, I would not recommend the book.
Anonymous (10/07/04)

I feel the book was too preposterous. A good childrens story but not for an adult. A hard read.
Bill (09/08/04)

Life of Pi was strange. I found myself going back and rereading sections because I couldn't beleive what I thought I had just read. Martel put so many twists that Pi is not a casual read. But the humor just under the surface make it that. I recommend it, it was very enjoyable.

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