‘Life of Pi’ – Book Review

‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel tells the story of a 16 year-old Indian boy called Pi Patel, who survives 277 days in the Pacific ocean with only a tiger as company. The book is divided into three segments. The first part is about Pi’s life prior to the ship sinking incident – it gives readers a chance to learn about his character and his interests and dreams as he was growing up. The second section and the longest is completely focused on Pi’s journey to survival and the challenges he faces, with the third section giving readers a glimpse of Pi’s take on the story after he is saved.

With such a basic ‘plot’ if you can even call it that, it would be easy to assume it is 300 pages filled with pointless paragraphs – but despite the odds, ‘Life of Pi’ manages to captivate readers early on, and it is at no point a tedious read. Every page offers a new challenge, surprise or suspense. Pi’s relationship with the tiger is a fascinating aspect of the story. Having been warned about wild animals by his father from an early age, it is gripping to see the change in Pi’s attitude towards the tiger as he is forced to spend nearly a year with it. He starts off thinking like any other human would – “what is the best way to get rid of the tiger before it gets rid of me?”. He soon realises that in fact, to survive this lonesome journey, the tiger is his only hope and he must do all he can to keep it alive. For anyone interested in animals and their strange unique human-like behaviour, this alone provides enough thrilling information to justify reading the book.

However, the real point of the book is to show Pi’s personal journey as he goes from being a young innocent child to being forced to put his uncommon beliefs into practice and growing stronger in his faith in God. It could be argued that this book is somewhat controversial, especially the first part which portrays Pi as an enthusiastic believer in three religions: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. But the protagonist’s religious comments never feel condescending or alienating to readers with opposing views. An atheist could read this novel and enjoy it just as much as a Hindu, Christian or Muslim would.

Yann Martel’s strong narrative and detailed descriptions give such a vivid and dramatic feel to the story, that the almost impossible survival of Pi becomes believable and admirable. It is a thought-provoking book that not only touches on the importance of strength and hope, but also presents well-researched facts and practical instructions on how to fight till the end, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation as Pi Patel.

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