Life of Pi by Yann Martel

*THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE*

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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? Doesn’t that make life a story? 

Sooo, Life of Pi. I’ve come across a lot of mixed reactions to this book, some love it and others (usually those forced to read it in school) hate/dislike it. Of course after hearing all the complaints I decided to steer clear of it, content to learn nothing more about it except that it had something to do with a boat, a boy, and possibly a tiger. Of course after believing I’d gotten off scott free and wouldn’t have to touch it, it eventually came up as a required reading in class (after all that time spent making fun of everyone else, I kinda deserved it). Much to my surprise I genuinely enjoyed it, and not just a little.  

For anyone that’s like me and somehow doesn’t know what this book’s about: An author with a bad case of writer’s block travels to India in the hopes of finding inspiration for his new book and meets a stranger in a coffee shop during a much needed break. This old man promises to tell him a story that will “make you believe in God”. Curious and not only a bit skeptical, he then follows the old man’s advice, bringing him to Toronto and a man named Mr. Patel. There he was told not a religious story, but one of exotic animals, a shipwreck, faith, tragedy, religious exploration, and one of an amazing and challenging survival that crossed logical lines into the realm of magic realism.

That’s what fiction is about, isn’t it, the selective transforming of reality? The twisting of it to bring out its essence?” “I applied reason at every moment…But be excessively reasonable and you risk throwing out the universe with the bathwater.

Though admittedly there were more than a few parts that had me sighing in boredom thinking “ugghh, when does it end”, those parts often eventually took a backseat to the scenes/quotes that had me admiring the layered meanings or delving into deep thought, and unexpected humour. The writing is very, very well done with plenty of connotations and possible/certain interpretations alike to pick over (something I could literally spend hours doing). Yann Martel, in both the unique way he decided to tell the story and the story itself, gives readers plenty to consider and evaluate, touching on themes with a lot of depth- primarily stories and the role they play in our lives, and the freedom of choice (something that is expressed quite a bit through Mr. Patel’s thoughts/experiences, as well as presented in-directly at readers). 

I watched the movie awhile after reading the book and have to say…the book was definitely better. Though I did LOVE getting to see some of the visuals on screen (primarily the ocean wildlife and animals), and think they actually did a good job of adapting it (especially in comparison to others- *cough* Percy Jackson *cough*), but there is still quite a bit left out. Things I don’t think could ever really be captured on the screen. So for once, I actually enjoyed the movie after reading the book, and did it with only some angry muttering about how they completely changed/left out entire scenes, cut out/changed some of my favorite quotes, or completely ruined the significance of others with sugar coating… I’m not angry. Still, I admit that the movie is actually worth checking out…maybe after reading the book.

I can’t say for sure who would like this book- I went into it expecting to feel reading each page was agony- but in short, those interested in religions (regardless of spiritual beliefs or disbeliefs),  cultures/languages, animals, and definitely those interested in philosophy may want to give this book a try. Overall I’d say 8/10 Unicorn Horns.

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4 Comments

  1. I read this book just last month and gotta say I hated the most of it. Feel like spent 80% of the book reading about fishing and how to survive in the sea. The other part was interesting, won’t deny it, specially when he was talking to his blind friend and when the truth story was revealed finally (I saw the movie when it came out, many years ago) still enjoy going into forums to see ppls reacion in the island. However, this still doesn’t make it a good book for me. But loved your reviews anyways!

    • Oh yeah, I hear you. Loved that convo too and the revelation at the end is what made the book for me, but those fishing scenes definitely had me wanting to pull my hair out and because of it there was a part of me that was overjoyed to finally be done with it once I finished reading. So this is one book where even though I ultimately ended up enjoying it more than not, I can totally understand people saying it wasn’t for them. The movie made a lot of those mind numbing survival scenes a lot more bearable which is one reason I really liked it.

      Thanks for reading it anyway and glad you liked it! I hope your next read is a better experience =)

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