Life of Pi Review

Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  Set in the 1970s, this book follows a young Indian boy named Pi Patel.  A boy who survived 227 days in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat...with a Bengal tiger.

This is a powerful novel that makes you question how you view your world, your religion (or lack of religion), and human morality.  Throughout the book, the main character, Pi Patel, tells you stories of his childhood, college, and adult years that are imaginative, engaging, and sometimes simple facts.  

Pi grew up in a zoo, learning how to train and care for them and imaging them with human personalities and habits.  Pi is deeply religious and practices three of the major religious.  He was brought up as a Hindu, found Christianity when he was fourteen, and Islam when he was fifteen.

When Pi is around sixteen, his parents decided to move the family to Canada to escape the political turmoil of 1970s India.  They book passage on a Japanese ship (together with a few of their animals that they will be selling in Canada), which happens to sink in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Pi is the only survivor.

The rest of the book outlines Pi's amazing journey at sea with an injured zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger...or did he?

When Pi is getting interviewed at the end of the book, he tells a different story...a story without animals.
The Better Story.  This is the main theme in the book.  Throughout the book (when he talks to the priest, tells stories of the animals as a child, and the telling of the main story, and the interview at the end), Pi contrasts "dry, yeastless factuality" (the "truth")" with "the better story."  Pi's story about the atheist and the agnostic is a simple example of this:
"I can well imagine an atheist’s last words: “White, white! L-L-Love! My God!”—and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, “Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain,” and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story" (Ch. 22)
Pi states that he dislike agnostics, because they lack the imagination or desire to look past everyday life and seek out a "better story"...something to believe in when you need it.  The atheist, according to Pi, believes...he believes in the lack of God and therefore it is easier for him to make the jump from believing in no God to believing in one.

This theme is continued in the main story:  the difference in the story with animals and the story without animals.  Everyone who has heard both stories is given the option to choose:  which is the better story?  And each time they have chosen the one with the animals.  Why?  A lot of it doesn't factually add up, it is fanciful, and impossible.  The other story answers all of your questions of who, what, where, how, and (mostly) why.  But it is horrifying, immoral, and leaves you feeling terrible and disgusted with humanity.  The story without animals is the "dry, yeastless factuality" that answers all the questions, but leaves you feeling terrible, alone, and hungry; whereas, the story with animals (the "better story") invokes joy along with the sadness, hope along with fear, and companionship...even if it is in the form of an adult Bengal tiger


Overall, I give this book a 9/10. It is definitely one of those books that you need to read more than once.  Once I read the last chapter, I immediately began flipping back through the book to catch more of the parallel between the stories and to relive some of my favorite scenes (ex. the 3 Wise Men in Chapter 23).

Warning:  Quiet a bit of animal violence.  Mention of cannibalism and murder.


The Movie:  I watched it in 3D and it was simply gorgeous!  The opening was tasteful with reels of animals.  I loved the guy who played adult Pi...perfect casting.  I'm also a big fan of Gérard Depardieu, but having a guy I like so much play the role of the cook...it was hard to take.  Some of the scenes from the lifeboat were heartstopping:  that first sunrise, the night scenes where it looked like they were floating in the stars, the whale.

Creative license that annoyed me.  
  • The introduction of Pi's Indian girlfriend...why?  
  • Pi taking all of the food on the raft and then loosing it....  
  • Pretty much the fact that the movie was PG...this is not a child's story.  Don't try to market it as one.  
  • Although young Pi did an excellent job telling the story, I wanted to see the events of the other story portrayed, but again...PG movie.

1 comment:

Maid Service Chester NY said...

Life on a boat under impossible conditions. What a fascinating
story, I couldn't put it down. First experience. reading and listening at same time, marvelous! Highly recommend it.