Canadian Reviews

Life of Pi Review


Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

 

Pi Patel’s family is leaving his Indian hometown of Pondicherry to move to Canada when the Japanese ship he and his family are on, suddenly sinks in the Pacific Ocean.  Pi Patel has just survived a sinking ship in the Pacific Ocean and witnessed the death of his family, and is now struggling aboard his lifeboat.  A 450-pound Bengal tiger, a zebra with a broken leg, a vicious hyena and a lumbering orangutan join the castaway party for what ends up being 227 days adrift in the lifeboat.  Martel's "Life of Pi" might sound ridiculous, but by the time Martel throws Pi out to sea, his quirkily magical and often hilarious vision has already taken hold.

 

As Pi explains, in his Indian hometown of Pondicherry, the local priest, pandit and imam, as well as Pi's parents, had many objections to his penchant for collecting religions. But as Pi reasons in his typically idiosyncratic way, "Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims." When he observes how Muslims pray, he says, "Why, Islam is nothing but an easy sort of exercise ... Hot-weather yoga for Bedouins." His naiveté can be silly, but ultimately it's open-mindedness, a way of turning things upside down to see them differently, that serves him well.

 

Eventually, Pi's family flees an unstable India, where his father runs a zoo, heading for Canada, and bringing various animals along with them on a Japanese cargo ship that mysteriously sinks.  Luckily, Pi possesses a nonreligious kind of understanding and faith that allows him to survive on the lifeboat with four animals not known for their compatibility.  Pi's lost-at-sea story never drags. The slow journey is spiked with fascinating survival scenes. 

 

There is no one answer to the question, "What is Life of Pi about?" There will be probably be as many answers to that question as there are people who read the book.  A perusal of online booksellers reveals that this book can be categorized as a survival story, a tall tale, an action piece, a work about human/animal relationships, and a fiction about (1) India, (2) adolescence, (3) zoos and zoology, and (4) the Pacific Ocean.  The book is about all of these things -- and about none of these things, really.  Moreover, it is soon be a movie in 2009 directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.  An 8 out of 10 from me.

 



  

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Added: January 14th 2007
Reviewer canucker
Related Link: Life of PI at Chapters
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