Book Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Disclaimer: I’m writing a review of the book that I did not finish, and I have no intention of doing so. I cashed out about one-third of the way through. Take that into account as you read this.

Life of Pi - book


I suspect everyone has some idea what Life of Pi is about, mostly from the movie previews. It was the movie previews that interested me initially – the scenes with a boy and a Bengal tiger trapped together on a lifeboat are powerful and brilliant.  So, I bought the book. Everyone knows, the book is always better than the movie adaptation.

The story follows the amazing life of the young Indian character Pi Patel, and the interesting part – the part about the shipwreck and winding up adrift in a lifeboat shared with a tiger – is sandwiched between a long act I where Pi contemplates religion in depth, and a short Act III where a less fantastic telling of the events occurs, leaving the reader to decide which they want to believe.

There is a fine line between being insightful and just naval-gazing, and for me, Life of Pi was deep in the belly-button lint. Some people love this sort of thing, and Yann Martel humbly presents the religious contemplation in an amusing way – through his young protagonist’s observations. This is not just a book where the MC is religious in-character in beliefs, the nature of religion and god(s) is a main theme.

This made the first third of the book very tedious for me, and I quit reading at this point. It is not a commentary about the writing or characters, but that I didn’t have wherewithal to hang in there to get to the “good stuff.” I did see the movie after I gave up on the book, and really enjoyed the way the story unfolded in the theatrical adaptation. Again, faith is core to the story but subtle, and unlike the book, it didn’t dwell heavily on theological subjects.

This is one case where I actually enjoyed the movie more than the book the movie is based on. This may not be the case for you, and if you enjoy contemplation of various religions, discussed in casual and accessible terminology, you may find this thoroughly entertaining.

Book: I didn’t like it, but gave up on it before finishing it.  I did enjoy the stories about caring for animals in the zoo.

Movie adaptation: I loved it and it satisfied me to the point that I have no desire to go back and try to pick up reading were I left off.

My completely opinionated perspective is: If you are going to pound on about religion – even if it is with rubber-headed hammer, wrapped in velvet – make it quick and then get on with the story.  Of course, the novel has been read and loved by millions, so I am probably in the minority.


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