Life of Pi - book cover
  • Publisher : Mariner Books
  • Published : 01 May 2003
  • Pages : 326
  • ISBN-10 : 0156027321
  • ISBN-13 : 9780156027328
  • Language : English

Life of Pi

The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional--but is it more true?

Editorial Reviews

Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. Life of Pi won the 2002 Man Booker Prize and has been translated into more than forty languages. A #1 New York Times bestseller, it spent 104 weeks on the list and was adapted to the screen by Ang Lee. He is also the author of the novels Beatrice and Virgil and Self, the collection of stories The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, and a collection of letters to the prime minister of Canada, 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. He lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Readers Top Reviews

I had been avoiding this movie for a few years due to a lack of interest. How foolish I was. Life of Pi is an extraordinary 3D adventure. It is a film I will forever remember. With astonishing visual effects, showing what it means to be human, and a remarkable storyline between the two central characters, Life of Pi is unquestionably a great film. I fully recommend this film for it is so much more than a film. It is an experience.
Janie U
I bought this book when it won the Booker prize years ago but never really got past the first few pages. I then saw the film when it was released and tried to read the book again straight afterwards but the images were too strong in my head so yet again it didn't work. I tried again now and am so pleased I did. The book starts with an "authors note" which places the mood and source of the story. Plenty of seeds are sown here and the spiritual setting is created. Throughout the book we hear more from the author as he gets to find out Pi's story. Scene setting dominates the first third of the book and Pi is established, then the boat sinks and the story simply starts to fly. I savoured this book, the writing is beautiful and seems to demand that you read it slowly, taking in every word. Pi had an endless amount of time at sea and wants the reader to understand that the progress of time means nothing compared to the compulsion to survive. Even having seen the film and having fairly high expectations, I was blown away by the relationship between boy and tiger with its simplicity and complexity on many different levels. We know that Pi survives from the beginning of the book which gives a calm to our experience of his journey and I somehow wanted his progression (physically and spiritually) to continue forever. The book is full of wonderful quotes but one of my favourites is " Fiction is the selective transforming of reality" - somehow seems to sum up this book wonderfully.
I only bought this book because it was 20p and was supposed to be good. I really wasn't expecting to like it much. The fact that it had won awards planted a thought in my head that it was going to be a load of arty farty gibberish, that was too clever and fancy for the average person to enjoy. However, if that turned out to be the case then I had only lost 20p and a small amount of time. Then I started reading it. My opinion was slowly changed over the first few chapters. This book is beautifully written without being pretentious. The author describes scenes and events in a way that makes them easy to imagine and worth picturing in your mind as though you were there. Often a film will outdo a book on the fact that it can show beautiful scenery that can't easily be described in words. If that is the case here then I can't wait to see the film because to outdo the imagery possible from this book it will need to be spectacular. The first third of the book builds up the character of Piscine (Pi) and often goes into details of religion. It never goes so far as to preach in any way though. It doesn't say that any one religion is, overall, better than any other. It is even funny when an argument breaks out regarding the subject. I am atheist but I am also fascinated by religion so maybe that was why I didn't find this section of the story boring. I can, however, see why some people would and would only urge them to persevere because the book picks up considerably afterwards. The idea of a boy being stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger and a few other animals sounds ridiculous. That someone could write a book based on this event and make it interesting is almost unbelievable. How can you write so much about such a small group of characters trapped in a miniscule almost featureless setting and keep people from falling asleep? I had wondered whether all of the animals would start talking because I went into this book with no idea of how the characters interacted with each other. The answer again lies in the authors ability to describe everything so amazingly well. Whether it is about the confines and yet territorially broken up small boat, the vast emptiness of the ocean, the beauty and terror of the weather, the despair of being alone, the elation of discovering a way to continue surviving, or the fear of, and respect for, a 450 pound tiger, it is stunningly written. Different people will interpret the words in different ways too. Some will read it is an adventure with a bit of survival ingenuity thrown in; some might read it as a kind of spiritual journey giving events a religious meaning; others could interpret it as a view of life itself. The way it is written means that there will be different parts where readers suddenly think, "Ahhhh! So that's what the author is trying to say." I personally had my mom...
A. Nichol
I read this off the back of Clancy, and so the contrast couldn't have been more stark. Too many books I've come across lately lack any emotional or philosophical depth, so it was lovely to read something so whimsical and heart-felt. The story is incredibly simple - a boy survives a ship wreck and finds himself on a lifeboat with a bengal tiger - which leaves a LOT of room for emotional and philosophical exploration. Probably too much room. It opens wonderfully, painting an imaginative and technicolour picture of Pi's life and family that draws you into his world. Sadly, any momentum is then lost in the following tedious exploration of religious context spanning many, many chapters. So the boy worships many gods; a funny joke told too many times, before the punchline is explained in excruciating detail. Once castaway, the story picks up again. The first half of this adventure is packed with variety and answers to those "what if" questions that naturally spring to mind. After a while, though, it just gets boring. I started looking at the progress bar at the bottom of my kindle, willing it to come to an end. I had mixed feelings about the ending. While I was reading it, I was cursing Martel for dragging it out needlessly. But by the time I'd finished it, I totally understood why he had to. Ultimately, there are some damp patches throughout, but it starts well and ends well, with a few really nice set-pieces in between. It also leaves you with some great "what do you think really happened" discussion material when it's all over.
My first recommendation to a reader of Life of Pi is to read it with a highlighter. This book is best consumed for the quotes. I expect that I will be revisiting this books for the wise words gifted to me by Martel among his pages. That being said this book did not tickle my fancy. It may be because I am a lover of thrillers, and writing that thrusts you through the chapters. This is a book for those who love the journey and don't care to rush to the end. It came repeatedly recommended in my searches for 'books with the best plot twists', which is how it fell into my hands however what I assume was to be the plot twist was more of a bit of plot confusion. I'm still unsure of what really happened and what the real ending is. I often found myself checking to see how many pages I had left, but admire Martel's ability to come up with ways to keep the plot moving forward on 227 days stranded in the Pacific Ocean. An inspirational tale of survival, endurance, resilience and faith but one I would expect to read for a literature class and not voluntarily in my free time.

Short Excerpt Teaser


My suffering left me sad and gloomy.
Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religion slowly brought me back to life. I have remained a faithful Hindu, Christian and Muslim. I decided to stay in Toronto. After one year of high school, I attended the University of Toronto and took a double-major Bachelor's degree. My majors were religious studies and zoology. My fourth-year thesis for religious studies concerned certain aspects of the cosmogony theory of Isaac Luria, the great sixteenth-century Kabbalist from Safed. My zoology thesis was a functional analysis of the thyroid gland of the three-toed sloth. I chose the sloth because its demeanour-calm, quiet and introspective-did something to soothe my shattered self.
There are two-toed sloths and there are three-toed sloths, the case being determined by the forepaws of the animals, since all sloths have three claws on their hind paws. I had the great luck one summer of studying the three-toed sloth in situ in the equatorial jungles of Brazil. It is a highly intriguing creature. Its only real habit is indolence. It sleeps or rests on average twenty hours a day. Our team tested the sleep habits of five wild three-toed sloths by placing on their heads, in the early evening after they had fallen asleep, bright red plastic dishes filled with water. We found them still in place late the next morning, the water of the dishes swarming with insects. The sloth is at its busiest at sunset, using the word busy here in a most relaxed sense. It moves along the bough of a tree in its characteristic upside-down position at the speed of roughly 400 metres an hour. On the ground, it crawls to its next tree at the rate of 250 metres an hour, when motivated, which is 440 times slower than a motivated cheetah. Unmotivated, it covers four to five metres in an hour.
The three-toed sloth is not well informed about the outside world. On a scale of 2 to 10, where 2 represents unusual dullness and 10 extreme acuity, Beebe (1926) gave the sloth's senses of taste, touch, sight and hearing a rating of 2, and its sense of smell a rating of 3. If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will then look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. Beebe reported that firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloths elicited little reaction. And the sloth's slightly better sense of smell should not be overestimated. They are said to be able to sniff and avoid decayed branches, but Bullock (1968) reported that sloths fall to the ground clinging to decayed branches "often".
How does it survive, you might ask.
Precisely by being so slow. Sleepiness and slothfulness keep it out of harm's way, away from the notice of jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles and anacondas. A sloth's hairs shelter an algae that is brown during the dry season and green during the wet season, so the animal blends in with the surrounding moss and foliage and looks like a nest of white ants or of squirrels, or like nothing at all but part of a tree.
The three-toed sloth lives a peaceful, vegetarian life in perfect harmony with its environment. "A good-natured smile is forever on its lips," reported Tirler (1966). I have seen that smile with my own eyes. I am not one given to projecting human traits and emotions onto animals, but many a time during that month in Brazil, looking up at sloths in repose, I felt I was in the presence of upside-down yogis deep in meditation or hermits deep in prayer, wise beings whose intense imaginative lives were beyond the reach of my scientific probing.
Sometimes I got my majors mixed up. A number of my fellow religious-studies students-muddled agnostics who didn't know which way was up, in the thrall of reason, that fool's gold for the bright-reminded me of the three-toed sloth; and the three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God.
I never had problems with my fellow scientists. Scientists are a friendly, atheistic, hard-working, beer-drinking lot whose minds are preoccupied with sex, chess and baseball when they are not preoccupied with science.
I was a very good student, if I may say so myself. I was tops at St. Michael's College four years in a row. I got every possible student award from the Department of Zoology. If I got none from the Department of Religious Studies, it is simply because there are no student awards in this department (the rewards of religious study are not in mortal hands, we all know that). I would have received the Governor General's Academic Medal, the University of Toronto's highest undergradua...