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decent, but I'm not wowed

  • Jun 26, 2013
Like many others, I read this book when I heard that there was going to be a movie adaptation. I haven't see the movie yet, but I don't get the hype surrounding this book. It's good, but I wasn't blown away.

The most famous part of the book is the scene depicted on the cover of a boy stranded in a boat with a tiger. That part of the book is indeed a fascinating survivor's tale. The protagonist, Pi Patel, must use his wits to stave off a tiger after his boat sinks on a cross-Pacific voyage. Yann Martel is very good at showing the young Pi as he confronts the difficult choice to live. Pi must violate some of his previously held beliefs, such as his aversion to killing animals, in order to survive.

However, this epic only constitutes the middle half of the book. The beginning 40% or so shows us Pi's life before his ship sank. And it's frankly a bit uneven. Yann Martel tries to make several points about religion and wildlife but it comes across as too forced. Pi isn't a very well developed character. He's depicted as a flaky kid who can't decide on a religion. This setup would have been OK if there had been a great payoff at the end, but there wasn't. The religion stuff only comes up intermittently as Pi occasionally says thanks to several Gods or prophets.

The writing gets somewhat repetitive after a while. Yann Martel writes the way people talk, which sometimes adds a layer of realistic but sometimes means we have to read through characters repeating each other's questions for clarification or asking for confirmation. It just seems like filler after a while.

Overall, 3.5 stars. I don't read many Young Adult novels but it seems like a decent one. But I wasn't wowed. I got the impression that I was supposed to be wowed by all the talk of religion but it felt shallow. Maybe I'm just not the target audience.

- Enjolras

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June 28, 2013
About the reviewer
Dominic J Nardi ()
Ranked #77
I am a recent law school grad with an interest in Southeast Asia legal issues. Unfortunately for my checkbook, ever since high school I have been addicted to good books. I have eclectic tastes, although … more
About this product


Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettableLife of Piis a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting "religions the way a dog attracts fleas." Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker ("His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth"). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don't burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat's sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: "It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I've made none the champion."

An award winner in Canada (and winner of the 2002 Man Booker ...

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