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4.2 out of 5 stars
Life Of Pi
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140 of 163 people found the following review helpful
At the time of writing, Life of Pi is on the shortlist for the Booker Prize, and by the time of you reading this, it has either won (hurrah) or lost (hurroo). Because of the three novels I've read from the shortlist, Life of Pi stands head and shoulders above the others for being entirely original, good-natured, sparky (unlike the sluggish, grounded others), and extremely moreish: it took me only two days to navigate its 320 pages. You can put it down but it's such enjoyable fun why would you want to?
The blurb is somewhat misleading, suggesting that Life of Pi is only about the travails of a boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger: in fact there are 100 pages before this main event. But the miracle is that even when restricted to one human character and a twenty-odd foot lifeboat, Martel is never boring, and never resorts to childish anthropormism with the animals either: Pi really does have to survive with a 450-pound Bengal tiger, hungry and uncartoonish and nearby.
Speaking of miracles, the narrator's pushy insistence throughout the book that it will "make you believe in God" is the only chunk of the novel I couldn't quite swallow. There's no godliness whatsoever - unless it's moving in mysteriously subtle ways or something and I'm just too much of an atheistic blockhead to see it - unless you count the instances of Pi praising God when something good happens to interrupt the terrible attrition of life on the lifeboat. And frankly who wouldn't hedge their bets a bit in such a situation? In fact, thinking of it, one particularly memorable section of the book - the island, a staggeringly inventive set piece which put me in mind of the land of the mulefa in Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass - indicates, if anything, evolution at work rather than Creation, and the narrator even makes respectful mention of Darwin.
However. This small gripe does nothing to detract from the fact that Life of Pi will have you grinning like a tiger for days. Prize-winner or not, if it doesn't become a classic in the next few years, I'll eat that carton of emergency rations. Well he won't be needing it will he?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2012
Pi Patel's journey of survival, determination and sheer courage begin on July 2nd,1977. Where the cargo ship `Tsimtsum' carrying Pi and his family to a new lease of life sinks, leaving Pi only sole survivor fighting the wild and untrained pacific ocean alone, this is not the worst of his fears as aboard the lifeboat he comes in contact with a hyena, a zebra, and orang-utan and Richard Parker the 450 pound Bengal tiger.
At this very point, the reader follows and extraordinary journey that will test the potential alpha male, will question the belief of a vegetarian, will test the will power against the horrendous weather and everyday teaching a new skill in which will be adapted to this nauseating expedition.
In this novel Yann Martel allows the reader to explore deep imagination throughout this tense journey, as the most outrageous scenario is put into context in a manner in which the unbelievable could that in fact be credible.All in All a good Yarn to pass the time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2011
...it's much better in the second sitting. I first read this book in my freshers week, and for whatever reason (hangover, disinterest, lectures...) I read it but was bored through out. I recently grabbed it as I was sat waiting for my other half and what a revelation it was!
At it's simplest, it's a story about a boy adrift in the pacific with a 450 poun royal bengal tiger. At its most intricate, it delves into religion, zoology, history and survivor psychology. The fact that the author has managed to knit together so deftly the different weaves is breathtaking, and he writes very elegantly. This is a book to be savoured, from the description of how he got his name- from the finest swimming pool in france- to the descriptions of his tiger training, his mysterious island and the startling (well, I thought it was) revelation at the end.
Read it, then read it again. And enjoy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2013
Smothered in praise, winner of the Booker, successful film adaptation... two of those things are ill portents almost anywhere. But the Booker? Come on.

Life of Pi - I'll spare you the plot, where it exists - does indeed begin like a printout of Wikipedia, with some inelegant and tedious listing of thenceforward irrelevant information about zoos. There is a sprinkle of pages that read like a primary school comprehension exercise on religion. There is - oooh, a shipwreck!

Maybe now it gets interesting.

Wait - wait -

oh.

Over a hundred pages in, the book picks up a little and then dies on its *rse again. The lifeboat/survivor/tiger 'thing' is an intriguing idea, which is no doubt why it's the image everyone knows about Life of Pi, but Martel fails to lift it above the pedestrian. The dullness of his prose, in a generous mood, may be attributable to the not-quite-first-person voice, but I fear it's worse than that, as the passages in other voices are just as clumsily delivered and uninspiringly drawn out. For some reason Martel feels the need to explain everything he writes, often multiple times. For some reason there is no spark at all to the language. For some reason there is no life to the story. For some reason it won twenty grand and all the critics are clearly touching themselves over it, or at least what they were paid to say nice things for the jacket. Well, stodgy and mildly imbecilic style can be glossed over in one's memory of a book if the meaning of it rings out like a sonorous bell in thick weather, but alas, Life of Pi is less a bell than a clapped-out tambourine with a bust skin and none of those tinkly bits. There is either a bewildering profusion of symbolic resonance here (if you're that way inclined) or a total lack of it. Forgetting all that crud about "a story that will make you believe in God", which it doesn't, the only part of this book that comes close to having any meaningful import is a small section of the last part - probably a couple of pages. Without 'spoiling' (if that is possible) the ending, it calls into question the story we have read. I mean, an intelligent reader would do that anyway. Martel hands us the most obvious of our own questions on a plate, saying "look at how clever my book is, it makes you question things and think about God!" Well, no. It makes me question why I bothered, and it makes me wonder why it's so widely praised, and it makes me wonder at the cynical commercialism and bandwaggoning of the media, that they should raise a book as frustrating and turgid as this to some kind of pedestal of enforced worthiness.

TL;DR: go read Swift's Gulliver's Travels, or Voltaire's Candide. Go read Eco's The Island of the Day Before. Go read something better, anything, but don't waste time on this. By all means watch the film and go "oooh" and "aaah" at the pretty things, but unless you're a glutton for childishly bad writing with no apparent value, leave the book on the shelf and count yourself lucky you're not the one writing this awful review.

Two stars. Because it would be trite, not to mention over-generous, to give it 3.14. And because there is at the core of the narrative an intriguing, if appallingly delivered and terribly developed, basic concept. And I have, shockingly, read worse.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
It is important that before you begin reading this novel, you have an open mind. Put scepticism aside and let yourself become amazed and inspired. After all, "that's what fiction is about, isn't it? The selective transforming of reality?" The writing flows with such bountiful, resplendent ease, with which the reader can only indulge.

The story begins with the history of Pi's family life in Pondicherry, India. Here we learn of Pi's faith and understanding of religion, controversially practising three faiths; Hindu, Christian and Muslim. Pi's father owns a zoo in Pondicherry, where Pi's knowledge and consideration of animals is introduced.

Yann Martel engineers a contrasting intelligence between the explanation of Pi's nickname and the number of chapters in the book. There are exactly 100 chapters in this novel, suggesting precise in-depth planning from the author, whereas the name Pi is symbolic of the mathematic symbol, which represents a number that is never-ending.

Sporadic interludes from Martel bring us back to the present day life of Pi, acting as a constant reminder that the story has a "happy ending". "In the hope of a better life" his father decides the family are to immigrate to Toronto, Canada.

Humans and animals aboard, the Tsimtsum sets sail across the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, "the ship sank." Pi is the only human survivor and in the most unlikely of circumstances he is shipwrecked on a life boat, his only companions being; an injured zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan named orange juice and Richard Parker, a four hundred and fifty pound Bengal tiger. The inevitable outcome of the food chain is enforced. Thus leaving Pi for the remainder of his 227 days at sea, alone with the tiger.

The chapters between Pi and Richard Parker are the core of the story. Pi uses clever survival tactics, which include building himself a raft, from which he tames Richard Parker. Pi also marks out his territory on the life boat, enforcing himself as the alpha male in their relationship.

Religion and faith flow powerfully through the book. Yann Martel certainly encourages you to believe his story. However, at no point throughout the book does the reader get the feeling of being preached to. Life of Pi is not about one person's ideals on faith or religion, it is about one young man, facing absolute adversity and triumphing against all odds. This story will take you out of the "glum contentment that characterises [your] life". Captivating from beginning to end, you can't help but feel inspired by this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2004
I was slightly unprepared for the tale of Piscine Patel and Richard Parker, but picked up the book on a recommendation. I'm pleased that I did!
Pi's character is complex, yet clearly defined. His formative years, where he learns of religion (taking on three diversifying religions at the same time), and his more harshly-imposed lessons on the true nature of animals is an enjoyable read in itself.
The majority of the book is set on a lifeboat, lost in the Pacific ocean with nothing but a handul of animals on board. It was here where I was expecting either a boring narrative where every second sentence made a banal observation to God (almost like those Richard Bach novels), or would develop into a surreal metaphysical discourse with the animals. I am again pleased to say that neither happened. The book maintained a strong foothold in reality despite the bizarre situation that Pi found himself in. The tale of Pi's survival on the lifeboat, and finding his strengths and hindarances from the animals on board was again, pleasurable reading.
All in all, "The life of Pi" is a bittersweet tale of loss and salvation, simply told and easily absorbed. There is nothing heavy-handed about any of the ideas in the book, and the writing style flows along.
Unfortunately, I did not feel that it is one of those books that begged a second reading, rewarding as it was. However, it is still a recommended read to both those seeking an intelligent book, filled with questions, as well as those simply seeking a light afternoon's escapism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2010
This book is clearly unique. It takes a fair while to get going, introducing you to a setting and a population of characters which arent actually the primary basis of the story, almost like a misdirection (assuming you dont already know what the story is about!). It then moves on through catastrophe to create what is an unlikely partnership devoted to survival against all odds. The book then gets very clever and actually would be a good read for anyone interested in survival manuals - probably more effective than the real thing!

The ending wasnt what I expected, made me sad, not because the ending was sad but it was as wonderful as it could have been - ironically probably the most realistic thing in the book!

A very clever and engaging book with a twist. Inventive and original. Absolutely worth a read, for most ages.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2005
I gave my review the subject I did because if you are anything like me, you will very often read books that are clever, you know you should have enjoyed them but you just found yourself finding it all a little boring. Well Life of Pi bucks the trend here. This book is clever, don't get me wrong, the painstaking attention to detail of the writing really allows the reader to understand where Yann Martel is trying to lead you, whilst holding out on you so the story can evolve into what it ultimately becomes.
Pi is a young boy who's parents own a zoo. His voyage to Canada (with his interesting menagerie of animals) is rudely cut short by the boat sinking. Alone, in danger, in a life boat Pi is in trouble. However things get worse when he discovers he is on a life boat with Richard Parker. A Bengal Tiger. A couple of other animals are there - a hyena and a zebra - but what concerns Pi most, is understandable, Mr P.
Now I know this all sounds rather fanciful and something you might expect in a children's library but I assure you it isn't. What follows is a wonderful narrative skilfully written. Remember that the author has really restricted himself and to what he can use to set the scene, they are in the middle of the ocean in a boat! Give the book time and ensure you stay right to the end, you really won't regret it.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2012
For many years people have told me I MUST read this book. So I thought it was about time I did so before the film comes out. I found the pace of the book rather slow, the switching of topics and discussions of swimming pools and such rather quite odd. In all honesty I did not particularly enjoy this book. As a novel the story is boring with no proper ending and as a great philosophical work I found it rather lacking. I studied philosophy at university and could recommend far better books if one is interested in tackling such concepts as freedom and survival. On the whole I would not recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2013
It's taken me a while to get round to this book and I wish I hadn't bothered. Call me old-fashioned but when I read a work of fiction, I don't really want to be lectured on the lifecycle and physiology of the three-toed sloth or the comparative characteristics of world religions. By the time it got to the interesting bit I had lost interest.
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