Annalisa's Reviews > Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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Aug 25, 08

bookshelves: book-club, literary, religion-philosophy, classics
Recommended to Annalisa by: Crystalyn
Recommended for: book clubs, thinkers
Read in March, 2007

I read this book two years ago, but when we discussed it this month for book club, I remembered how much I liked it. A good discussion always ups my appreciation of a novel as does an ending that makes me requestion my givens in the story. I find myself reading contradictory interpretations and agreeing with both sides. That's the beauty of symbolism: as long as you back up your cause, it's plausible.

Initially it took me several weeks to get into the book. The beginning reads more like a textbook with inserted clips of the main character's future self. While the knowledge I gained about zoology and theology was interesting, it wasn't intriguing enough to keep me awake for more than a few pages at a time and often I found the tidbits a confusing distraction. But with distance I enjoyed the backdrop information it offered. If you're struggling through the initial background, jump ahead to the second section. Yeah it's important, but it's not vital. And maybe once you've read the story you'll want to come back and appreciate his analysis.

I highly enjoyed this strange journey at sea and found it almost believable--until the castaways encounter the island at which point I wondered how much of his sanity wavered. Being shipwreck is one of a plethora of phobias I have. Throw on top my even stronger fear of tigers and this was a story straight out of a nightmare, one that kept me intrigued for a resolution. How could a boy keep the upper hand shipwrecked with a tiger? I had a picture in my head of Pi clinging to the side of the boat to avoid both the salty water infested with sharks and a foodless boat housing a hungry carnivore.

I found myself stuck in the unusual place where as a reader I find a story plausible with full knowledge that had this story been presented in real life I would have doubted its authenticity. I wanted to believe the story and all its fantasy. The end initially annoyed me, but if you look at the rich metaphors in the story, it becomes delectable for a story analyst like me. There is nothing I enjoy more than tearing apart a story and pulling out the intentions and symbols buried inside. Instead of just a fantastical story, you find a fable with a moral.

Spoilers here.
(view spoiler)

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
"Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can."
"It was my luck to have a few good teachers in my youth, men and women who came into my dark head and lit a match."
"Doubt is useful for a while...But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation."
"All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways."
"Memory is an ocean and he bobs on the surface."
"First wonder goes deepest; wonder after that fits in the impression made by the first."
"The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart."
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Shannon I just finished this book last night and am still feeling raw and unsettled by the turn the book took the last pages. I had been merrily reading along, mesmorized by all the wonderful details, seeing everything vividly in my mind, smiling every time he referred to the tiger as Richard Parker (I never got tired of being amused by that) and then Bam! slammed into a brutal possibility that in just a few pages wiped out everything I'd been thinking. I'm still mulling over and contemplating it all, and I am not great at interpreting books so I appreciate your insights. I am an agnostic choosing to believe the first version. It's just to beuatiful to let go.


Annalisa Shannon,
Thanks. This is a book that certainly gets better with time. I was irritated at first, like you, that he took it away, but then I got thinking about all the symbolism and then I loved it.


message 3: by Jonathonz (last edited Sep 28, 2010 10:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathonz Thank you for your interpretation. I was left feeling a bit like a castaway on the ocean all alone and needing some company after reading this book. I found it enthralling until the implausibility of the island but realized that he was most likely hallucinating by that point as the author does mention that he lies down to die right before he reaches the island. The reason for the island made sense to me by the end of the book.
I'm an agnostic that believes the second story. It's understandable that he would invent the story of the animals after the horror of seeing the murders, even of his own mother, on the boat and his own cannibalism. It's more plausible to me that there would be other people on the boat with him rather than the animals that had been in their cages. It makes sense that his mother would get up to follow him after he tries to rouse them. She probably felt something was wrong when the boat started to list and got up to find her son before the cabins were flooded. She would then be nearby to join him on the lifeboat. It makes sense that a boy that had grown up in a zoo and believed in 3 religions at once would invent this story to cope with the incredible ordeal he went through.
I loved this book a lot.


Annalisa Jonathonz, I like your reasoning, some of which I hadn't considered, like of course his mother would have stayed by his side and how did the animals get out of their cages? I think it's a fantastic read and I still think about it all the time.


Michelle Reading your review helped me understand the book much better. I, too, like Shannon, was a bit confused with the ending (although I thought it was a fascinating twist). I will certainly be thinking about this book for a long time, and I'm sure I will re-read it someday. I think it's a story that reveals new things each time you read it.


Patrick Wonderful review!


Jessica Simón Great view. Agree with you in many points.
I have JUST finished this ( wonderful) book and can't let it go of my head: I keep going through the story again and again asking me 'what do I believe?' so I guess that's the magic of this well written book: its story and message stays with you for a long time, maybe it will live in you forever. Just as Richard Parker will do in Pi.


Felicity Great review!


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