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on 15 September 2015
I read this off the back of Clancy, and so the contrast couldn't have been more stark.

Too many books I've come across lately lack any emotional or philosophical depth, so it was lovely to read something so whimsical and heart-felt. The story is incredibly simple - a boy survives a ship wreck and finds himself on a lifeboat with a bengal tiger - which leaves a LOT of room for emotional and philosophical exploration. Probably too much room.

It opens wonderfully, painting an imaginative and technicolour picture of Pi's life and family that draws you into his world. Sadly, any momentum is then lost in the following tedious exploration of religious context spanning many, many chapters. So the boy worships many gods; a funny joke told too many times, before the punchline is explained in excruciating detail.

Once castaway, the story picks up again. The first half of this adventure is packed with variety and answers to those "what if" questions that naturally spring to mind. After a while, though, it just gets boring. I started looking at the progress bar at the bottom of my kindle, willing it to come to an end.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. While I was reading it, I was cursing Martel for dragging it out needlessly. But by the time I'd finished it, I totally understood why he had to.

Ultimately, there are some damp patches throughout, but it starts well and ends well, with a few really nice set-pieces in between. It also leaves you with some great "what do you think really happened" discussion material when it's all over.
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on 8 May 2018
I purchased this after reading the reviews and I should have paid more attention to the 1 & 2 stars. I started this book 3 times before I finally got to the end (and I probably missed out great chunks). Sections, for example the swimming pools were so boring, and I still don't see their relevance. If Pi had swam more it would have made more sense. Training the tiger so Pi was Alpha cat and the tiger Omega cat was interesting but if the tiger was so strong and could swim really well, why didn't he use this to reach shore quicker. Maybe I'm missing something but this was not the book for me. I haven't and won't be watching the film.
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VINE VOICEon 20 May 2014
I bought this book when it won the Booker prize years ago but never really got past the first few pages. I then saw the film when it was released and tried to read the book again straight afterwards but the images were too strong in my head so yet again it didn't work. I tried again now and am so pleased I did.
The book starts with an "authors note" which places the mood and source of the story. Plenty of seeds are sown here and the spiritual setting is created. Throughout the book we hear more from the author as he gets to find out Pi's story.
Scene setting dominates the first third of the book and Pi is established, then the boat sinks and the story simply starts to fly.
I savoured this book, the writing is beautiful and seems to demand that you read it slowly, taking in every word. Pi had an endless amount of time at sea and wants the reader to understand that the progress of time means nothing compared to the compulsion to survive.
Even having seen the film and having fairly high expectations, I was blown away by the relationship between boy and tiger with its simplicity and complexity on many different levels.
We know that Pi survives from the beginning of the book which gives a calm to our experience of his journey and I somehow wanted his progression (physically and spiritually) to continue forever.
The book is full of wonderful quotes but one of my favourites is " Fiction is the selective transforming of reality" - somehow seems to sum up this book wonderfully.
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on 28 January 2013
I only bought this book because it was 20p and was supposed to be good. I really wasn't expecting to like it much. The fact that it had won awards planted a thought in my head that it was going to be a load of arty farty gibberish, that was too clever and fancy for the average person to enjoy. However, if that turned out to be the case then I had only lost 20p and a small amount of time.
Then I started reading it.

My opinion was slowly changed over the first few chapters. This book is beautifully written without being pretentious. The author describes scenes and events in a way that makes them easy to imagine and worth picturing in your mind as though you were there. Often a film will outdo a book on the fact that it can show beautiful scenery that can't easily be described in words. If that is the case here then I can't wait to see the film because to outdo the imagery possible from this book it will need to be spectacular.
The first third of the book builds up the character of Piscine (Pi) and often goes into details of religion. It never goes so far as to preach in any way though. It doesn't say that any one religion is, overall, better than any other. It is even funny when an argument breaks out regarding the subject. I am atheist but I am also fascinated by religion so maybe that was why I didn't find this section of the story boring. I can, however, see why some people would and would only urge them to persevere because the book picks up considerably afterwards.

The idea of a boy being stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger and a few other animals sounds ridiculous. That someone could write a book based on this event and make it interesting is almost unbelievable. How can you write so much about such a small group of characters trapped in a miniscule almost featureless setting and keep people from falling asleep? I had wondered whether all of the animals would start talking because I went into this book with no idea of how the characters interacted with each other. The answer again lies in the authors ability to describe everything so amazingly well. Whether it is about the confines and yet territorially broken up small boat, the vast emptiness of the ocean, the beauty and terror of the weather, the despair of being alone, the elation of discovering a way to continue surviving, or the fear of, and respect for, a 450 pound tiger, it is stunningly written.

Different people will interpret the words in different ways too. Some will read it is an adventure with a bit of survival ingenuity thrown in; some might read it as a kind of spiritual journey giving events a religious meaning; others could interpret it as a view of life itself. The way it is written means that there will be different parts where readers suddenly think, "Ahhhh! So that's what the author is trying to say." I personally had my moment of realisation, (I won't say at what point), and saw it as an interpretation of life. Everyone has there own little area in a vast world, with their own hopes and fears, their own limited provisions, their own moments of suddenly working out how to do something, their own loneliness and their own dark times and light times. You may read it and find some other explanation. That is what this book does. It leaves you to make up your mind, and it does it not out of laziness. Some readers have been disappointed by the ending. I thought it was great. In one respect it answered everything and yet, in another respect, left me wondering about whether it was a definite answer or not.

Life of Pi falls into a small group of things that are surprising in their brilliance. The film "Buried" is another, where the director managed to make ninety minutes of a man in a buried coffin with just a lighter and a phone compulsive viewing. Another film, "Lebanon", is similar. The entire film is viewed from the confines of a tank with its four occupants trying to get away from trouble after taking a wrong turn. In a similar, but also unique way, Life of Pi also turns a cramped scene into a fantastic story. Those who read this book will remember it for a long time afterwards. It has certainly gone down as one of the greatest books I have ever read.

Stunning! The best 20p I am ever likely to spend.
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on 26 August 2014
Despite the extraordinary premise of this story, starting as it does with young Pi trapped on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan and a bedraggled, seasick tiger, it’s not something I read as an allegory or mystical fable. What kept me turning page after page, virtually unable to put the thing down, was the immediacy and intimacy of the story telling, drawing me in to the characters and the adventure right from the outset.

There aren’t many recently published books I’ve read that have made me think, “this is destined to become a classic” but with Pi I think it very well might be. An excellent read and a beautiful twist at the end that leaves you wanting to pick it up and start all over again. If you’ve not read it yet, in a way I envy you. It’s just one of those rare stories that you discover that I wish I could delight in again for the first time.
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on 24 July 2013
I suppose, as my tag line states, the book is something a number of people may find hard going.

The books starts in India and young Pi's life in a zoo. As this is a human tail, the story ambles along at a gentle pace covering Pi's relationships with friends, family, and to some extent the animals. In fact there is a lot of detail around the animals and whether it is fair, or right, to keep them in cages.
However, it's the detail of the writing which should encourage you to stick with the book. Consider the sights, sounds and smells as Pi grows up.

Eventually we move the main event - Pi being stranded on a lifeboat with Richard Parker (a Bengal Tiger). Again, it's interesting to read, but as I said it's a human story (or a human and animal)as is not action packed. After all not a lot can happen in a lifeboat, even with a tiger aboard.

Still, for those who have not seen the film, or know the story, I would recommend the book because of it's unusual style, because of the unusual story, and because of Mantels decriptive writing.

It is a very, very good book, but may not be for everyone. For those who love reading for the sake of reading, it's a gem.
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VINE VOICEon 4 January 2013
This is one of the best books I have read this century. The story of Pi (Piscine Molinar Patel) who grows up in a zoo in India, but gets stranded in the Pacific on a rowing boat with only a tiger and (temporarily at least) some other animals for company, it's extremely well written. Although not the opening line, I think "I was named after a swimming pool" could have been a great first line and the first 100 or so pages cover Pi's childhood, his experimentation with following 3 religions at the same time and his life in the zoo leading to his families emigration to Canada via the Pacific.

Following the sinking of his ship, Pi finds himself alone with the tiger, an organutan, hyena and zebra. After a while only the tiger remains to keep him company, but this is no fairy tale with a talking tiger (as I thought it would be) - this tiger is real and ferocious and the story of how Pi survives for 227 days is gripping and believable. There is some wonderful writing - after battering his first fish to death it shimmers different colours over its scales in its death throes - "I felt like I was beating a rainbow to death". It's funny and moving and religion plays a big part, but is not rammed down our throats and we are left to make up our own minds. The mysterious Richard Parker flits ellusively through the first part of the book and we are left to guess how he will impact the story - very well done and funny too.

I re-read this prior to watching the film and enjoyed it as much 2nd time around, which is as high praise as I can give. The film is a decent shot at the book, which I thought was fairly unfilmable, but do read the book first.
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on 31 December 2012
A quite extraordinary story, which if the author's note at the beginning of the book is true, is a true story. Which makes it even more extraordinary. The author plays with his readers at the end by introducing a similar story but with the characters played by humans and not animals. The way this is done is extremely clever and serves the purpose of making the reader question even more the veracity of the story.

Quite simply one of the best books I have read and now in my top five, along with Anna Karenina, Birdsong, The Places in Between and anything by Dickens.

It is a story of hope, faith, determination, tenacity and endurance over an almost unbelievable set of circumstances and adversity.

A teenage Indian boy, Pi, finds himself shipwrecked in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Pi's chief adversary, and at the same time his saviour, is a young adult male Bengal tiger with whom he shares, at times, the lifeboat. The relationship that the two develop over two hundred and twenty seven days in the middle of the ocean with a brief sojourn on a floating island inhabited by meerkats, forms the bulk of the story.

One learns much about the keeping of animals in zoos and animal behaviour when a relationship with man is enforced upon them. This turns classic critical thinking about this subject on its head and gets you thinking, as does much else about this book.

Whilst definitely a unique book, its style reminds me of Philip Pullman novels, which similarly can be taken at surface and face value, or can be dived into and their deeper meaning enjoyed and cogitated upon. It thus a fable.

Really a must read. Buy this book you will not be disappointed.
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on 24 March 2013
This is a beautiful book. I was captured for 2 days on a boat with a tiger with Pi; the writing gave me that fuzzy feel I get with books which are clearly surreal, but so lovely you believe them anyway. So, I enjoyed the process of reading the book, and thoroughly recommend it. And without the hype surrounding this book, that would be that with this review.

However, a few things genuinely puzzle me. I finished this book smiling but entirely unsure what the message was supposed to be. Is his argument for believing in god entirely based on the premise that everything is nicer and fuzzier if you believe in something, irrelevant of whether it is true? That doesn't strike me as particularly profound, even with the excellent example this story is for that idea. Yes, it is much nicer and fuzzier to imagine a story of animals on a boat rather than people dying horrible deaths, but that does nothing to make the people dying horrible deaths not true. That is basically an 'ignorance is bliss' argument, which is fine, but can you actively choose to be ignorant? Confusing.

I also felt a bit uncomfortable with the constant assertions that animals are better off in zoos, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion...

So, enjoyable read, but it hasn't made me believe in god. Or even really understood why it should have made me believe in god.
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on 22 December 2012
'Tyger, Tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night...Did He who made the Lamb make thee?' In a word, yes. And in this strange book, Yann Martel beautifully gives life to William Blake's words of 200 years ago, subtly stressing the unity and inter-dependence of all life on Mother Earth, and that we are 'all in the same boat' Writing in a simple, matter of fact way - the very simplicity of his language seems to enhance the profondity of his subject matter - he depicts the workaday life we lead with all its practical aspects (whether it's on land in India or in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), but also, underlying that, the fact that the natural world around us (and in particular the animals who surrounded Pi as a child in India) are utterly dependant on man's benevolence: nay, more than that - man's love and compassion.

Unlike some other reviewers, I found the most satisfactory part of the book the preliminary chapters of Pi's life in India, with its thought provoking insights into life, the universe and everything. However...when it comes to being adrift in a small boat in the Pacific Ocean, the endless, obsessive and sometimes (if you are a vegetarian) nauseating details of surviving each day when you don't know where your next meal is coming from, or that you may also become the next meal of the dear tiger, Richard Parker, irritating and tiresome. Page after page of tedious details, which oddly, if it were the real life memoirs of a shipwreck survivor, would probably be fascinating, detract from the emotional and spiritual tenor of the book.

Although the tiger is nature red in tooth and claw, giving it a name - the result of a clerical error at the zoo in India - is clever. Because, like a family pet, it immediately becomes something special in the eyes of its 'owner' who cares for it and bestows love on it. To summarise the book: 'All life is sacred'
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