Jun 6, 2009

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Pi is the son of a zookeeper in India. When his family emigrates to Canada- taking as many zoo animals along with them as possible- the ship sinks, and Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat with several animals, including a large bengal tiger. Before long, of course, the tiger has eaten the other animals- and Pi must use all his wits to stay alive in the confined space, on the rocking, endless ocean, with a hungry tiger. I loved all the details of this book- especially about animal behavior. This is a survival story, an animal story, a moral story, all in one. It was a shock to me to reach the end and find out that what I thought had been going on- and taken so much enjoyment in reading about- could have been something totally different. And I was a bit annoyed. For days I wavered back and forth, arguing to myself which way to interpret the story- and I'm still not sure! Life of Pi is one of those books that I found utterly engrossing- and totally frustrating at the end. It is lyrical, funny, and haunting. I can't give away the ending- but if you've read it, you must tell me which premise you believe in- was Richard Parker on the boat, in his beautiful furred coat? or was there some cannibalism going on....?

Rating: 4/5 ........ 326 pages, 2001

More opinions at:
The Curious Reader
Book Chase
Rabbit Reader
Andrew Blackman
You've GOTTA Read This!


  1. I think the ending is what makes this a perfect book for a book club discussion!

    The ending had me vascillating, too!

  2. Nice review! What I found interesting was that, like you, I did find myself needing to believe in one story or the other, even though rationally I knew that both were completely made up. I suppose that's the sign of a good storyteller - to make you so involved in the story and the characters that you forget, or refuse to acknowledge, that none of it is real. Thanks for the link. by the way!

  3. I chose to believe the first ending--I actually had some profound reason that I can no longer remember for doing so, but I can remember I could convince no one else with it (heh)--with a bit of delusion mixed in once he reached the island.

    Any story with animals is better than a story without.

  4. I loved this book so much - I need to read it again! And the end was one of my favorite endings for a book, ever. I believe in the tiger. But I like it that the author lets you decide.

  5. I enjoyed this book until the end, too. The end just didn't work for me and kind of ruined the rest of the book as far as I was concerned.

  6. I loved this book and have met the author, and asked him certain questions.
    I am very much a realist in my reading.
    I want to believe in a Richard Parker on the boat, who later bounds away!
    For me, this is the "better story".

  7. I think it doesn't matter what really happened. That's sort of the point. It's that you've got two different contradictory ideas and they both make you think, like you said. That's the importance of it, not the actual truth.

  8. I think of the Richard Parker story like one of the stories your parents tell you about a time you were too young to remember. After a while, you think you remember it, but what you're remembering is the story you've been told.

  9. ANovelMenagerie- I can see this book causing lots of discussion in a club!

    Andrew Blackman- I did want so much to believe a teenager could survive on a small boat with a tiger! You're welcome, by the way.

    SFP- I love animal stories, too.

    Jenny- I'm glad you liked it, too! It just frustrated me to find the ending so ambivalent.

    Bermudaonion- Well, it didn't ruin it for me. I still want to go back and read it again. Maybe I'll see the ending coming, this time.

    Cipriano- How cool is that. What questions did you ask him? Did he give any insights into why he crafted the ending that way?

    Anonymous Child- Yes, it was very thought-provoking. I think I'll enjoy the quandary next time I read it.

    Jeanne- That's a very good way to think about it. We all recall the same incident differently....

  10. Anonymous6/09/2009

    My brother got this for me a while ago, but I still haven't gotten around to reading it. I should pull it out.

  11. I thought the audio version of Life of Pi was great when I listened to it several years ago.

  12. Wow, you've certainly piqued my interest in this one. The plotline alone was enough, but then a trick ending on top of that...!

  13. I had many of the same frustrations as you did when coming upon the end of this book, but it’s been three years since I’ve read it and I’m foggy on the details. This is a book that I probably would have rated 3/5 at the time, but I’ve kept it in hopes of reading it again one day and understanding/liking it a little better.


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