Reviews for Life of Pi
Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 May 2002
Pi Patel, a young man from India, tells how he was shipwrecked and stranded in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger for 227 days. This outlandish story is only the core of a deceptively complex three-part novel about, ultimately, memory as a narrative and about how we choose truths. Unlike other authors who use shifting chronologies and unreliable narrators, Martel frequently achieves something deeper than technical gimmickry. Pi, regardless of what actually happened to him, earns our trust as a narrator and a character, and makes good, in his way, on the promise in the last sentence of part one--that is, just before the tiger saga--"This story has a happy ending." If Martel's strange, touching novel seems a fable without quite a moral, or a parable without quite a metaphor, it still succeeds on its own terms. Oh, the promise in the entertaining "Author's Note" that this is a "story that will make you believe in God" is perhaps excessive, but there is much in it that verifies Martel's talent and humanist vision. ((Reviewed May 15, 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2002 May #1
A fable about the consolatory and strengthening powers of religion flounders about somewhere inside this unconventional coming-of-age tale, which was shortlisted for Canada's Governor General's Award. The story is told in retrospect by Piscine Molitor Patel (named for a swimming pool, thereafter fortuitously nicknamed "Pi"), years after he was shipwrecked when his parents, who owned a zoo in India, were attempting to emigrate, with their menagerie, to Canada. During 227 days at sea spent in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger (mostly with the latter, which had efficiently slaughtered its fellow beasts), Pi found serenity and courage in his faith: a frequently reiterated amalgam of Muslim, Hindu, and Christian beliefs. The story of his later life, education, and mission rounds out, but does not improve upon, the alternately suspenseful and whimsical account of Pi's ordeal at sea-which offers the best reason for reading this otherwise preachy and somewhat redundant story of his Life.Author tour Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Library Journal BookSmack
Wherein Hero temporarily enters a different world and is greatly changed by his experiences there. He returns improved, perhaps, writes Booker, "moved from ignorance to knowledge." Five stages begin with a Fall into the other world; in Martel's elegant Life of Pi, Pi is on the brink of adulthood when his ship sinks, and he is a castaway for 227 days. First adrift on a lifeboat, then stranded on an island, he gets back into the lifeboat and makes it to Mexico. Did I mention the Bengal tiger? That's key to the next stage: Initial Fascination/Dream. This unfamiliar world is initially exhilarating to Hero, but it's not somewhere he can ever call home. In Pi's case, this is doubly so as he is accompanied on his Voyage by Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal Tiger (I still don't understand why he's named Richard Parker). As time goes on, Pi enters the Frustration stage with "difficulty and oppression," in this case slow starvation and Pi's increasing need to maintain his unlikely Alpha role on the boat. The next two stages, Nightmare and Thrilling Escape and Return, are straightforward. After almost starving, they suddenly wash ashore. The tiger disappears into the jungle, and Pi returns to normal life, but how did he grow? Well, readers soon discover that the tiger wasn't a physical beast but the symbolic representation of the fierce, animalistic drive that Pi had to evince in order to survive the superhuman tribulation of spending seven and a half freaking months alone and slowly starving to death. Pi grew from boy to man-even if he's also become a food hoarder- Douglas Lord, "Books for Dudes," Booksmack! 10/6/11. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal Reviews 2002 June #2
Named for a swimming pool in Paris the Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel begins this extraordinary tale as a teenager in India, where his father is a zoo keeper. Deciding to immigrate to Canada, his father sells off most of the zoo animals, electing to bring a few along with the family on their voyage to their new home. But after only a few days out at sea, their rickety vessel encounters a storm. After crew members toss Pi overboard into one of the lifeboats, the ship capsizes. Not long after, to his horror, Pi is joined by Richard Parker, an acquaintance who manages to hoist himself onto the lifeboat from the roiling sea. You would think anyone in Pi's dire straits would welcome the company, but Richard Parker happens to be a 450-pound Bengal tiger. It is hard to imagine a fate more desperate than Pi's: "I was alone and orphaned, in the middle of the Pacific, hanging on to an oar, an adult tiger in front of me, sharks beneath me, a storm raging about me." At first Pi plots to kill Richard Parker. Then he becomes convinced that the tiger's survival is absolutely essential to his own. In this harrowing yet inspiring tale, Martel demonstrates skills so well honed that the story appears to tell itself without drawing attention to the writing. This second novel by the Spanish-born, award-winning author of Self, who now lives in Canada, is highly recommended for all fiction as well as animal and adventure collections. Edward Cone, New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. #
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 April #2
A fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (né the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. The scenes flow together effortlessly, and the sharp observations of the young narrator keep the tale brisk and engaging. Martel's potentially unbelievable plot line soon demolishes the reader's defenses, cleverly set up by events of young Pi's life that almost naturally lead to his biggest ordeal. This richly patterned work, Martel's second novel, won Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. In it, Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master. (June) FYI: Booksellers would be wise to advise readers to browse through Martel's introductory note. His captivating honesty about the genesis of his story is almost worth the price of the book itself. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2003 June
It sounds like the start of a bad joke: A boy, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger are stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific. The format makes it clear from the beginning who survives, but it is the how that propels the reader, as Pi's voice emerges with an as-told-to memoir quality that relays the tale of a young man who explores a variety of faiths and learns much about human nature through watching the animals at his father's zoo. Everything he discovers through his observations becomes applicable in the oceanic adventure that takes place after the sinking of the ship carrying his family and a few select specimens from the zoo toward a better life in North America. Although ordinarily science and religion are at odds, the lessons learned through spirituality and biology become Pi's salvation. The novel takes an allegorical twist when Pi reveals that his highly imaginative tale of animals corresponds to a more horrific one, peopled with family and crew from the sunken ship. The plot hooks, the writing is vivid, and the tone is engaging after a slow start. Although the gore and physicality are not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart, teens who enjoy reading to learn something about the world around them or themselves will delight in this Booker Prize-winning novel.-Beth Gallaway. 4Q 2P S A/YA Copyright 2003 Voya Reviews