Peter's Reviews > Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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's review
Sep 30, 07

Read in September, 2007

Life of Pi is a wonder.

It is the story of a boy of sixteen who is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger. It is a tale of survival and man’s interaction with himself and the wild. It is a lesson in zoology and spirituality. And it is just plain great.

Part fable, part allegory, part memoir, part encyclopedia, and part philosophical text—Life of Pi is all of these things. But most of all, it is a story. And it reads like old-fashioned storytelling—the kind in which a circle of boys and girls sit cross-legged and rapt around an old man who, despite his calm demeanor and soft tones, fiercely commands the room’s attention.

In this case, the story he tells is mysterious and wondrous. It is unlike anything anyone has ever heard. And so the children’s parents linger around the outside of the circle, noting the teller’s words and sensing that something is percolating deep beneath the characters and the action, something that, with a knowing glint and a rare hint, the storyteller suggests but doesn’t let on entirely, some moral or truth, or maybe some insight into the human condition.

This teller is good. He has no use for guile, and so his clarity of thought and his simplicity of narration draw his listeners in. He has come to understand life’s essential elements, and so he unfolds his story plainly and without artifice. His listeners, in their complexity, are helpless against his honesty.

And so, a story—a truly sensational and dramatic story built around an often-bloody struggle for life and death—arrives in a voice that is even, measured, paced, scaled. And this voice opens the doors for everything else that is packed in: the vivid aquatic scenes, the reflections on human need and vice, the range and import of zoological understanding.

Faced with all this, the boys and girls and mothers and fathers learn and wonder, and perhaps some of them become aware that this man is not just a storyteller, but truly also a teacher, and that everything he describes—every quandary, every explanation, every detail, every revelation—everything serves to teach something more than the story of a boy and a tiger…

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. Thoughtful, fun, full of stuff.
Would I teach it? Yes, I think so. There’s a lot to work with in there.
Lasting impressions: Aside from some tremendous plot revelations, two things stand out to me: voice and story. There’s something about the simplicity of the voice that reminds me of The God of Small Things and I wonder if it has to do with Indian culture. And then there’s just the great storytelling.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Elizabeth I'm so glad you liked this book! It's one of my all time favorites!

Shannon (Giraffe Days) I love your review. I have this book but haven't got around to reading it yet, and it gets such mixed responses I've been a bit hesitant. But you really make me want to read it!

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