Full Review : Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi (<- Amazon Link, Click To Read A Sample)

Year Published : 2001
Genre : Fiction
Edition : Kindle eBook
# of Pages : 460


Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.


Pi is a boy is lost at sea. Trapped for hundreds of days on a lifeboat with an assortment of animals- the most imposing being a bengal tiger. Part two of this storyline (which makes up the vast majority of the book) explores his extraordinary will to survive, the evolving kinship that forms with the tiger, and many close brushes with death. 

This section was an emotional rollercoaster. There were passages of great beauty, really funny parts, but also unbelievably disgusting and hard-to-read parts, sad parts, thought provoking scenes, tense or exciting scenes, slow and plodding scenes, and a surprising amount of unpredictability considering the sense of cramped isolation felt by Pi.

The writing is so vivid and evocative, but I was reading it all in the middle of the night which helped considerably with the immersion. The main concepts are simple but inventive and I regret not reading this years earlier and seeing the movie adaptation in theaters, I haven’t seen the movie yet but if it captures even a tenth of the more attractive parts of the book, it should be a visual marvel. I just want to see Richard Parker, the best character of all time.

Now for the downsides. The descriptions of turmoil felt by the handful of surviving animals on that boat is a lot to take in. There is violence and while not senseless, it’s also not the type of thing I’d be happy to read under most circumstances.

Next, Parts 1 and 3. I didn’t like them as much. Part 1 is filled with endless zoo minutiae and confusing foreboding of the events to come. There are some high points, and I want to re-read it actually, but as a first impression I don’t think it’s very effective or ideal, nor reflective of the book’s strengths.

Finally, the author’s kind of pushy with the theism in a way that can come off as ham-handed and arrogant. I’m fine with religious characters and expression, but I was left puzzled at some of the negative and ranty thoughts that are pushed through via Pi.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Why You Should Try It – You’ll never find another book with a tiger that can make you cry. Richard Parker did that. He’s so great that you can’t even look up the simple-sounding name ‘Richard Parker’ on Google Images without finding thousands of pictures of him.

Critique – While the thoughts on religion can be interesting, there are some bewildering, perhaps ill-conceived passages on agnosticism.

Life of Pi (<- Amazon Link, Click To Read A Sample)

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