Eva's Reviews > Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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Dec 04, 2013

it was amazing
Read in October, 2002

It is not so much that The Life of Pi, is particularly moving (although it is). It isn’t even so much that it is written with language that is both delicate and sturdy all at once (which it is, as well). And it’s certainly not that Yann Martel’s vision filled passages are so precise that you begin to feel the salt water on your skin (even though they are). It is that, like Bohjalian and Byatt and all of the great Houdini’s of the literary world, in the last few moments of your journey – after you’ve felt the emotions, endured the moments of heartache, yearned for the resolution of the characters’ struggle – that you realize the book is not what you thought it was. The story transforms, instantly, and forever.

And in those last few chapters, you suddenly realize that the moral has changed as well.

You feel Martel’s words lingering, suggesting, and you find yourself wondering whether you are his atheist who takes the deathbed leap of faith – hoping for white light and love? Or the agnostic who , in trying to stay true to his reasonable self, explains the mysteries of life and death in only scientific terms, lacking imagination to the end, and, essentially, missing the better story?

There is no use in trying to provide a brief synopsis for this ravishing tale of a young boy from India left adrift in the Pacific in a lifeboat with a tiger who used to reside in his father’s zoo in Pondicherry. There is no use because once you finish the book you might decide that this was not, indeed, what the book was about at all. There is no use because, depending on your philosophical bent, the book will mean something very different to your best friend than it will to you. There is no use because it is nearly impossible to describe what makes this book so grand.

Read this book. Not because it is an exceptional piece of literary talent. It is, of course. But there are many good authors and many good books. While uncommon, they are not endangered. Read this book because in recent memory - aside from Jose Saramago’s arresting Blindness – there have been no stories which make such grand statements with such few elements. As Pi says in his story “Life on a lifeboat isn’t much of a life. It is like an end game in chess, a game with few pieces. The elements couldn’t be more simple, nor the stakes higher.” It is the same with Martel’s undulating fable of a book about a boy in a boat with a tiger. A simple story with potentially life altering consequences for it’s readers.

As Martel writes, "The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?" Like Schroedinger's cat in the box, the way this book is understood, the way it is perceived affects what it is. There has been some talk that this book will make it’s readers believe in god. I think it’s a question of perspective. To behold this gem of a novel as an adventure of man against the elements (the “dry, yeastless factuality” of what actually happened) is certainly one way to go about it. But to understand this piece to be something indescribable, something godlike, is by far the greater leap of faith.

Oh, but worth the leap, if the reader is like that atheist, willing to see the better story.


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Comments (showing 1-50 of 107) (107 new)


Bryon Medina I couldn't have said it better, in fact, I wouldn't care to try. When people ask me about this book I'll just refer them to your description.


message 2: by Josephine (new) - added it

Josephine Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious I have to concur with Bryon. Thank you for writing that.


Kristin You said what I trid to say about the novel, only so much more eloquently!


Tracy Roy I think we have our next Yann Martel. Thanks for this review.


message 5: by Linksbard (last edited Jan 26, 2008 03:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Linksbard you know, brevity is the soul of wit, and wit creates a sense of brevity even in the extended. eva's commentary and synopsis (not that she would attempt to comment or provide synopsis), to wit, are remarkably engaging and even handed. if she does not comment professionally in some fashion, she should, not that i would presume upon her ability to do so. forgive me if my post is more about her abilities as such than the book, not that i would deign to comment on the book after her deft offering. so, for any who actually reads these posts and wishes a most supreme encounter with learned commentary removed from the masturbatory qualities of self-congratulating formal academia, i refer you to eva's review of "life of pi," not that i would ever refer anyone to formal literary criticism.

by the way, if this post sounds ironic, i mean it only as a compliment and complement to a device found throughout eva's review. and if it weren't obvious, i'm often at odds with formal criticism, but relish useful and engaging commentary like hers. i pray to my non-atheist god that she's apart from the academic fray, but if not, that they listen to her there.


Brian Flatt Wow!! That's probably one of the best reviews I've ever read! Ever! Makes me want to run right out and get the book. Right now!! To move it up to the top of my list!


message 7: by SR (new) - rated it 4 stars

SR This is a really well-worded review - it's been an age since I read the book, but your writing brought back good memories of the delicacy and richness of the novel.

But one quibble.

Feynman didn't do cats, boxed or otherwise. You're thinking of Schrodinger. :)


Pete This is a really good review and agree with it in totality!


Carissa Thank you for saying what I wanted to, but couldn't. This book was so haunting to me because there was so much more than just a kid and a tiger in a boat. I loved realizing at the end that you were not really sure what was going on. I feel sorry for my friends that didn't seem to get it. They really missed out on a great book.


Karen You nailed it Eva! I gushed over this book and how incredible it was, and I could never understand why some of my friends didn't love and appreciate it as much as I did. Well, now I know why: I don't think they "got" the many different layers and symbolisms involved in this book. Thank you for a beautiful review!


message 11: by Pam (new) - rated it 1 star

Pam Okay, you all apparently think it was great. I didn't!


message 12: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva Linksbard wrote: "you know, brevity is the soul of wit, and wit creates a sense of brevity even in the extended. eva's commentary and synopsis (not that she would attempt to comment or provide synopsis), to wit, ar..."

Touche', Linksbard. Many, many months late.



message 13: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva Rachel wrote: "This is a really well-worded review - it's been an age since I read the book, but your writing brought back good memories of the delicacy and richness of the novel.

But one quibble.

Feynman didn'..."


Rachel. Wrote this years ago, during which time not one person has ever pointed out the glaring error that you did. Was I reading Feynman at the time? Did I have a brain fart? Most certainly the latter, possibly the former. Either way, I (and those who care about Schroedinger, physics, or watching felines in boxes) am grateful you caught my mistake. Now if I can just figure out how to get back into my review and correct the problem.




message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul I just want to add myself to the list of people who love this review (except the Feynman/Schroedinger part). You nailed it!


Annie The ending...yeah. It's one of the best, if not THE best endings that I've ever encountered in a book. It COMPLETELY changed my perception on the book and just...wow. Not a lot of books can make me feel so many new things at the end, nor do endings usually leave such a deep impression on me.
This review pretty much nailed what I thought of the book.


Nettie Rosenow Great comments. I tell everyone to read it. Can't say it any better than everyone else.


Sandra Fantastic review! I had to thankyou because it is just as magical as the book!


Lauren Stern Kedem What does one read after this ?


alopez Wonderfully put!


Jennifer Ditto to every single one of the gushing comments about how great this review is. bravo.


Skalich you really captured my feelings about the book. A truely great book.


message 22: by Jude (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jude I loved it


Jakob Now if I can just figure out how to get back into my review and correct the problem. "

There's an edit button next to your review.

Good review though :)


message 24: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva Jakob, done.

Grazie, sir. (My computer skills are few and far between.)


Jakob Eva wrote: "Jakob, done.

Grazie, sir. (My computer skills are few and far between.)"


They are more than made up by your writing skill ;)


Laurie Robinson I was looking for the words to describe why i find this book haunting. You have completely summed it up! Thank you.


message 27: by Nat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nat McLennan I can really only agree with what everyone else has said about the perfection of your review.
So in all honesty, thankyou, because I think this is a perfect result of "Life Of Pi": the ability of strangers to be able to share and connect over the ideas within and without the novel.


message 28: by Luly (new) - rated it 5 stars

Luly Exactly!


Muthu Indian I think about the Schrodinger's cat, reading the same lines; we do seem to live in a very participatory universe.


Alexander I read only this review and your words convinced me instantly. I'm reading it now.


Mandy Great review. Loved the book.


param The book is among my favourites. And now, so is this review. Wonderfully written, Eva.


Summer you have put into words what I never could! such a wonderful review! !! thank you


message 34: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Spoken precisely how I felt! Grand beyond words. I'm so glad I read your review, it has given the completion, closure. :)


Wendy Clarke Beautifully expressed


message 36: by Chris (new)

Chris Reeves You mirrored so many of my thoughts.


Pjharvey82yahoo.com Wow! I can't wait to read it now! Thank you!


Jonathan Very nicely put! Mirrored many of my thoughts too...!


Helen Thoughts brilliantly expressed. A Word weaver and the result is as thought-provoking as the lasting impression of this grand piece of literature.


Jennifer Your review was simply....amazing!! and I haven't even read the book yet. Your words have made me want to read this book. Thank you. You are an excellent writer, if I may so myself.


Jenna As many, I agree with Byron. You have given the best review on this book I've read thus-far.


Jennifer Jenna wrote: "As many, I agree with Byron. You have given the best review on this book I've read thus-far."

Agree!! She is great at reviews.


message 43: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Haviland Your comments incited my desire to read the book, and now that I am, I see how apt your review is. All these "teasers" about how the ending is different than what you may expect make me both dread and eagerly anticipate reaching the last pages of the book - like opening Pandora's box!


message 44: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Matthews Your review was so good, I'm trying to figure out if it really happened, was it allegory, was it metaphor, or did it just exist in my mind to escape the loneliness. I suspect your review will jump onto the beach and dash into the jungle, and we will never know. (nor should we know.)


Sharmin yep, best review ever.


message 46: by Antonio (new)

Antonio Best review I have ever read. Are you a writer? Lol


message 47: by Martin (new)

Martin Olson Excellent writing.


Krish Radhakrishna Finished the book today. Took me a while to go through the initial 50 pages and after that I must have been sitting in some corner of that boat journeying through the pacific largely invisible to Pi and Richard Parker. the smell was terrible and the rocking of the boat and the inclement weather did not help.
I had been in Pondicherry and I must have met Adirubswamy or whatever his name.
I was glad when finally the journey ended, because too many things were dying. it gave life a new meaning defined by death itself. God had to come into this and all the religions of course otherwise we would not understand such an unbelievable set of events. Daniel Defoe in a boat with a tiger?
Or was it Dante's inferno cleverly concealed in a jungle book like story.
You could journey through hell and understand heaven and realise that they in fact exist within us and around us!
A brilliant Book!


message 49: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Gorman Incredible review! I just finished reading the book yesterday and it is still lingering. Eve articulated perfectly what I was attempting to sort out. I plan on referring this review to others, not only as a means of understanding the novel on a more profound level, but also a means of modeling engaging, precise writing skills.


Magnus Thanks for the review. As I have seen in other comments. Believing in what ever it is makes it easier to get the full flavour of life.


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