Book Review of Life of Pi

Life of Pi
Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
reviewed on


You haven't "been there, done that" until you've read Life of Pi

Yann Martel's Life of Pi is a fantastic adventure with elements of faith, tragedy, discovery, and ultimately victory. The novel is in three parts: Part 1 is the setup, Part 2 is the meat of the story (and bulk of the novel), and Part 3 is a short, but necessary wind-up where Martel lets you catch your breath while giving you a jumping-off point to ponder the overwhelming experience.

Presented mainly as an account related by Pi in first-person, the story draws the reader in slowly, at first. Part 1 of the novel paints a picture of the boy growing up in Pondicherry, India. Pi is inquisitive, observant, and quirky. With a craving for things spiritual, he investigates the three major religions present in his locale: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Having a natural ability to see (and feel?) the good in all things, he embraces in his own way all three.

The base created in Part 1 is necessary for the meat, blood, and guts of the story presented in Part 2. Without the foundation of his life firmly rooted in the reader's mind, the Part 2 adventure story would not stand. But as a solidly built home provides shelter, Life of Pi is a complete work: We have not been short-changed by Martel. The reader feels the security of Pi's loving family life, followed by the emotionally and physically wrenching circumstances that lead to his adventure-ordeal, and the honest presentation of the facts at the end in Part 3.

Martel's construction of the story is masterful as he takes the reader on a curious drive through a wonderful world. Then, just as the reader realizes that the author has only been taking him on a steady upward track to a dizzying height, he is plunged headlong into a nightmarish alternate environ that changes Pi's life forever, and impresses upon the reader the fragility of - and dependence on - life that humans and animals must inevitably face. In Pi's situation, however, the change is about as abrupt as can be, and the resulting circumstance stretches our sixteen year-old protagonist to many extreme limits. We live his sadness, his terror, his reasoning, his will, his ingenuity, his intelligence, his surrender, his victories. And there were times that I swear I could taste the seawater and feel the waves while reading this masterpiece.

All readers owe to themselves the vicarious experience that Life of Pi brings. This is a definite must-read.