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Book Review: The Life Of Pi

Updated on April 26, 2013

Is It Truth Or Fiction?

Like most fantasy tales, The Life Of Pi, contains maybe as much truth as it does fiction. This novel by Yann Martel is a tale of faith, survival and the resilience of the human spirit. The story is centered on the sixteen-year-old Piscine Patel, son of an Indian zookeeper, who is the lone human survivor when the freighter on which the family is traveling to Canada is shipwrecked. One can imagine few crises worse than being lost in the Pacific Ocean. But to add to his nightmare is the presence of an orangutan, a vicious hyena, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger, all in the lifeboat with him. With all these elements coming together, Martel weaves a story so improbable, yet so compelling, that the reader has a hard time putting the book down.

Pi’s life in India was one of introversion and a constant search for God. This resulted in him being teased mercilessly by his older brother Ravi, and puzzled over by his parents who could not understand why their son, born a Hindu, also wanted to be a Christian and a Muslim all at the same time. However, Pi, confused though he might have been, was very clear about his belief and love for God, and this may have been the undergirding for his unshakeable courage during his shipwreck. Many times he prayed and many times he whispered, “Never give up hope.”

Pi spent 227 harrowing days on sea, battered by the elements, most nights sleeping on a raft tethered to the lifeboat to avoid being eaten alive by the tiger, Richard Parker. During this time, Pi kept busy fishing, collecting water for himself and Parker, keeping the boat clean and writing in his journal. Despite his growing despair of ever being rescued, Pi displayed a good sense of humor and courage. In the end he literally learned “to tame the tiger”, using his zookeeping knowledge and experience to set boundaries that Mr. Parker could not cross.

So many truths can be learned from this award-winning novel, but one that struck me most was the relationship between Pi and the tiger. Pi could have let him starve to death and on one occasion he was tempted to leave him to drown, but he always changed his mind. However, in the end, when they finally made it to land, with Pi almost half-dead, Mr. Parker jumped off the boat, stretched his limbs and disappeared into the jungle with not so much as a backward glance. As Pi, years later, related the story to the narrator, his eyes filled with tears. He said, “After all we had been through, I couldn’t believe he would leave me just like that.”

The Life of Pi is a metaphor for the life of every human being. We go through changes in life, storms, shipwrecks, loss of friends and family members, situations that will either reveal our mettle, or take us under. People we counted on to be there for us will turn their backs on us when the storms pass. But with faith, we can weather the storm and emerge into the bright sunshine of a new day with our head held high and a smile on our lips. Never give up hope!


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    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, vespawoolf! The movie, as well as the book, is one you can't easily forget.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a thorough and interesting book review. My husband saw the movie and raved about it...I will definitely look into getting this book for my Kindle. Thanks!

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 4 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, Karen. If you love movies I would say, go see it. The cinematography is excellent and so is the acting. But whether you see the movie or not you should read the book.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, kidscrafts. I think you should read the book the first chance you get.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I didn't watch the movie as I prefer usually to read the book first! My hsband read the book and loved it. I didn't had time yet to read the book! Thank you for the excellent revew of the book!

      I like the message "Never give up hope" :-)

      Thank you for sharing this review Quildon!

      Have a nice weekend!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

      What a great review. I have seen this movie advertised but never really understood what it was about. I probably won't feel the need to watch this movie now that you have given it such a thorough review. And I am grateful to have read this review. You saved me 2 hours of time...thank you! Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 4 years ago from Florida

      Aloha to you too! I only saw the movie this week and as usual it could never give an in-depth analysis of the character's thoughts and emotions as the book does, but the cinematography does justice to the author's descriptions.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      I've seen the movie, and now that I've read your review, I want to read the book. This is one of the most creative stories I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and I want to discover what adventures the author himself encountered from the moment he conceived the idea until now. Thank you for sharing, my friend, and I wish you a happy and memorable weekend. Aloha!