Life of Pi Book Review

“The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity – it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.”

Author: Yann Martel                               Published: 2001                             Pages: 354

This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. It is a fairly simple story about a young boy who is shipwrecked and has lost everything including his family. He is alone on a boat save for a hyena, an orang-utan and a Bengal Tiger. The novel starts with Pi explaining his life so far and the events leading up to when the boat sunk. The omniscience narrator takes the reader through the story and while he presents it all as completely plausible and real, there are moments I was questioning how legitimate elements of it were: but that is exactly what Martel intended. He wants the reader to create their own opinion of Pi’s story and thus understand the importance of imagination for survival. 

What I found truly gripping about this novel was its ability to showcase Pi’s innocence as a young boy but also his endurance as a human with an endless willpower to survive. He shows us the gentle and primitive connections we have with animals while proving that they should be respected: they are vicious and deadly beasts too.

This novel includes such depth and truth about the relationship between humans and animals, and between life and death. Martel creates a reality which is unfalteringly believable that has you questioning everything you thought you knew – not just about vicious animals and their connection to humans – but also about the ability for man to survive and endure through anything. When we were children we relied on our imagination to create worlds for us and pull us away from the mundane life we were born into. This book proves that imagination is as important in adulthood as it was when we couldn’t tell the difference from our minds and reality.

In 2010, Barack Obama wrote a letter to Martel describing Life of Pi as a book which stood as “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.”

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