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Life of Pi
Stock image - cover art may vary
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0143028480
ISBN-13: 9780143028482
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: May, 2002
Length: 319 Pages
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Dimensions: 8.5 X 5.5 X 0.8 inches
Language: English

Life of Pi

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Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting "religions...
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Customer Reviews

  Rudyard Kipling Would be Proud

It took me three weeks to finally find this book. It flew off the shelves like hot cakes once it won the Man Booker Prize in England. However, once I got my hands on a copy, I read it from cover to cover. From the very beginning, Martel is able to enticingly draw the reader into a world that most of us in the western world have never seen before. His travels in India are apparent in the detail he uses when describing Pi's hometown of Pondicherry, and his talent for developing the main characters is done very well in my opinion, delivering enough detail to make it extremely authentic, but not overpowering the reader at the same time. Martel's style is simultaneously powerful, confident, and unassuming.

The "meaty" part of the book is used to describe Pi's incredible (and harrowing) journey across the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with a tiger. Don't let the description fool you. This book isn't sweet and cuddly; as is apparent by Martel's description of Richard Parker and his various companions on the lifeboat. This journey is one of life and death.

I've never read anything quite like "Life of Pi", apart from Kipling. This is on the same level in it's fableistic qualities. Instantly a classic in my opinion, it won't ever be outdated. This is the type of book that could be read a hundred years from now and still be great. 5 STARS!!!

  Deserves 6 stars

If you read often or browse the bookstores you find that there seem to be a limited number of plot designs and a finite number of characters. The names and cities change but the stories all sort of blend together. There are some authors who are more skilled at word flow than others and seem more comfortable with their style but a similarity exists that makes reading even the best volumes mundane.

Then you get the joyful opportunity to discover a book like Martel's Life of Pi. This is a story like no other. There is a plot unique, thought provoking and inspiring; a main character who presents a persona so important and so basic to life and an author who writes with such ease and comfort that you think he is speaking with you in your living room over coffee.

Main character Piscine [Pi] is stranded in a life raft with a tiger after a ship wreck. Don't let the seeming trviality of this brief plot review dissuade you. Only an author with the imagination and genius of Martel could make this work. It works so very well. Read this book with an open mind as Martel details his suffering, his thoughts, his feelings, his emotional drain and most importantly his relationship with the tiger. Try hard to understand what Mr. Martel is really talking about and dare to think about how you would react to the situations presented after 200 days at sea in a 26 foot raft.

For every 20 books I read I pray one will be like this. It is one of the few books I have ever read that I think I could read again.

  Amazing and symbolic - I loved this book

I read between 50 and 80 books a year and it is the rare novel that does not disappoint me on some level. This book never let me down, I was never bored and I never felt the author cheated or left loose ends. The language was simple and lyrical but full of symbolism and symmetry. I loved the main character's honesty and optimism and his simple will to survive. Above all I loved the choice of an alternate ending, neither story is a perfect fit leaving the reader the choice to make up their own mind. I laughed, I cried and I'm recommending it to everyone I know.
  Life of Pi

This is the best new novel I have read in years. It is completely refreshing. In this novel there isn't a hint of cynicism or pessimism. It is horrific and frightening, and yet optimistic in the most moving way. The only part where the sometimes inflated ego that Mr Martel has exhibited in previous books shows through (and I write this with a smile on my face) is when he suggests that the story "will make you believe in God." Don't worry, it will not corrupt you into organized religion, be it Hinduism, Islam or Christianity, nor does it even try. Yet, perhaps the key to the fascinating affect that this beautiful and horrifying work has is this rare (even unique!) underlying spirituality. It is a book of symbols, which you at first believe are quite simple, slowly developing (like an avalanche) into complexity. And yet when the story is over it becomes clear in a shocking instant that, all along, the symbols were even more simple and meaningful (in the most realistic sense) than you could have ever imagined. I was mesmerized by this book and could not put it down.
  I Once Caught a Bengal Tiger This-s-s-s Big

With over 1250 reviews already registered for LIFE OF PI, I first thought there could be nothing more to say about this marvelous novel. But after scanning the most recent 100 reviews, I began to wonder what book many of those reviewers had read. Had I relied on 98 of those reviews, I would have expected a far different book than the one I actually read.

Let's begin with what LIFE OF PI isn't. It's not a Man against Nature survival story. It's not a story about zoos or wild animals or animal husbandry. It's not ROBINSON CRUSOE or SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. It's not a literary version of CASTAWAY or OPEN WATER, and it's not a "triumph against all odds, happily ever after" rescue story. To classify it as such would be like classifying THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA as a story about a poor fisherman or MOBY DICK as a sea story. Or THE TRIAL as a courtroom drama, THE PLAGUE as a story of an epidemic, HEART OF DARKNESS as a story about slavery, or ANIMAL FARM as an animal adventure.

Martel's story line is already well-known: a fifteen-year-old boy, the son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India survives a shipwreck several days out of Manila. He is the lone human survivor, but his lifeboat is occupied by a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, an injured zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan. In relatively short order and true Darwinian fashion, their numbers are reduced to just two: the boy Piscene Molitor Patel, and the tiger, Richard Parker. By dint of his zoo exposure and a fortuitously positioned tarpaulin, Pi (as he is called) manages to establish his own territory on the lifeboat and even gains alpha dominance over Richard Parker. At various points in their 227-day ordeal, Pi and the tiger miss being rescued by an oil tanker, meet up with another shipwreck survivor, and discover an extraordinary algae island before finally reaching safety.

When Pi retells the entire story to two representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Transport searching for the cause of the sinking, they express deep disbelief, so he offers them a second, far more mundane but believable story that parallels the first one. They can choose to believe the more fantastical first one despite its seeming irrationality (Pi is, after all, an irrational number) and its necessary leap of faith, or they can accept the second, far more rational version, more heavily grounded in our everyday experiences.

LIFE OF PI is an allegory, the symbolic expression of a deeper meaning through a tale acted out by humans, animals, and in this case, even plant life. Yann Martel has crafted a magnificently unlikely tale involving zoology and botany, religious experience, and ocean survival skills to explore the meaning of stories in our lives, whether they are inspired by religion to explain the purpose of life or generated by our own psyches as a way to understand and interpret the world around us.

Martel employs a number of religious themes and devices to introduce religion as one of mankind's primary filters for interpreting reality. Pi's active adoption and participation in Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity establish him as a character able to relate his story through the lens of the world's three major religions. Prayer and religious references abound, and his adventures bring to mind such Old Testament scenes as the Garden of Eden, Daniel and the lion's den, the trials of Job, and even Jonah and the whale. Accepting Pi's survival story as true, without supporting evidence, is little different than accepting New Testament stories about Jesus. They are matters of faith, not empiricism.

In the end, however, LIFE OF PI takes a broader view. All people are storytellers, casting their experiences and even their own life events in story form. Martel's message is that all humans use stories to process the reality around them, from the stories that comprise history to those that explain the actions and behaviors of our families and friends. We could never process the chaotic stream of events from everyday life without stories to help us categorize and compartmentalize them. Yet we all choose our own stories to accomplish this - some based on faith and religion, some based on empiricism and science. The approach we choose dictates our interpretation of the world around us.

LIFE OF PI bears a faint resemblance to the movie BIG FISH, also a story about storytelling and how we understand and rationalize our own lives through tales both mundane and tall. Martel's book is structured as a story within a story within a story, planned and executed in precisely 100 chapters as a mathematical counterpoint to the endlessly irrational and nonrepeating value of pi. The book is alternately harrowing and amusing, deeply rational and scientific but wildly mystical and improbable. It is also hugely entertaining and highly readable, as fluid as the water in which Pi floats. Anyone who enjoys literature as a vehicle for contemplating the human condition should find in LIFE OF PI a delicious treat.