Blair's Reviews > Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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Aug 07, 2014

liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, read-on-kindle, booker-prize, 2000-09-release
Read in March, 2011

Having finished this, I am finding myself feeling thoroughly ambivalent about it. I can't think of anything overwhelmingly positive or overhwelmingly negative to say in this review. It was just alright. I've read lots of books that could be described in the same way, but I expected more from this, particularly since it won the Booker prize.

The beginning - describing narrator Pi Patel's childhood in India, growing up surrounded by exotic, dangerous animals as the son of a zookeeper - is promising. Some of the prose is rather beautiful, and at their best the descriptions evoke the sights and sounds of Pi's environment vividly. However, following this pleasant introduction, the bulk of the book is taken up by a lengthy account of the protagonist's attempts to survive on board a lifeboat after the ship carrying his family to Canada sinks, leaving Pi and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker the only survivors. The excitement of the situation soon abates; once the tiger has dispatched a few other surviving animals and Pi has managed to train him, all that's left is a repetitive series of chapters about how Pi stays alive. I couldn't stomach much of the stuff about Pi killing and eating whatever forms of life he comes across (there are more mentions of drinking turtles' blood than any story could ever need) and skipped the majority of these chapters (there's LOTS of them). The book becomes very monotonous, and while this may indeed represent what struggling to stay alive on a boat in the middle of a vast ocean would be like, it's not an attractive attribute in a work of fiction.

Right at the end, there's suddenly a really good bit which makes you yearn for how good the book could have been. First there's a sequence - possibly a fantasy/dream/allegory - in which Pi disovers a seemingly idyllic island with a sinister secret. Then there's the last few chapters, in which he recounts his tale, alongside an alternative version, to a pair of investigators. This part of the story is intriguing, funny and contains a fascinating twist; I really enjoyed it. It's just a shame I couldn't feel the same way about most of what came before these concluding pages.

Edited 29/12/12 to add... The film is better than the book. I've seen it in the cinema twice now, and it turns out this story is much more enjoyable to watch than it is to read. It's rare for me to prefer the movie version to the original, but this is an exception, it's wonderful!
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Robert Winning the Booker Prize is more a warning than an invitation to me, but I liked this one.

Deana Gariup I felt exactly the same about the movie being better than the book! Its definetley more enjoyable to watch how one can survive together with a tiger on a boat than reading about it over pages and pages...

rachelraven Ditto, apart from the movie. I liked the island, and it saved me, at the end, from a different review. I haven't seen the film yet.

Cecile Bol I totally agree with this review. Haven't seen the film yet, but the trailer is promising.

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