This book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.
The book I am reviewing is the book “Life Of Pi” by Yann Martel. You may recognize this book from the popular 2012 movie based after this novel. You also may recognize Yann Martel from other Canadian books that he has authored, such as “Self”. At any rate, Yann outdid himself with this book. Not many people could take the life of a young Indian man and make it into a compelling epic filled with conflict, hope, & promise.
This 537 page novel is divided into three main parts. The first is told from the point of view of Piscine Molitor Patel. His father owns a zoo in Pondicherry, India. He talks about his young life and the lessons he learned. Two really important things happen in this section. Firstly, after receiving the nickname “Pissing Patel,” he makes a new nickname for himself as “Pi Patel.” You get the idea that Pi is just a normal Hindu boy living in India. Secondly, Piscine “Pi” is born Hindu, but at the age of fourteen he starts practicing Christianity and Islam as well. He claims his reasoning as “I just want to love god,” (pgs 129-130). If I were Pi, I would have prayed to God more because Pi was about to have some bad luck.
The second is also told from Pi’s point of view. Surprising to me and unlike most book protagonists, Pi does not search for adventure. Instead it is forced upon him. His parents decide to move from India to Canada. After traveling with the animals on a ship so they can be sold elsewhere, Pi and the Patel family are thrown into danger. Their boat suddenly capsizes. Pi saves himself by climbing into a lifeboat but he is stuck with 3 (later 4) of the animals from his zoo. These animals are: a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan named Orange Juice, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (RP). Eventually, only RP is left. Pi and RP learn to cope with each other in the boat for 227 days, most of which are spent describing the sea, stars, and his situation. Unlike most other stories, this story seems natural as if it was authored by Pi himself. Pi must remind himself continually of his family and realizes that life is only good if enjoyed, a continual reference through the rest of the book. If not for RP, Pi would have given up and died. Will Pi ever make it back? You’ll have to read the book to see what happens.
During the final part of the novel, years later, a much older Pi Patel is being interviewed by two reporters who are looking for info about the ship he was on. When they do not believe the story he tells them with the animals, he tells them another story in which Pi, his mother, the ship’s cook, and one of the sailors are on the lifeboat instead. The reporters have a mixed review to this story as well. Because neither of the stories have anything to do with the ship, they choose one of the stories. Pi’s response is simply “Thank you. And so it goes with God,” (pg. 531). You’ll have to read to find out which story they chose.
Overall, I would give this novel about 3.5/5 stars, because of two reasons. The book uses complicating word choice and if you prefer short books, this book is not for you. Also, the book does drag on in the middle while describing the few things Pi sees in the ocean in great detail. This leads to a slightly stretched out conflict and even some redundancy, but if you can make it past this part of the book, it is well worth it to see the end of Pi’s journey. Condensed into about 250-300 pages, this book would have been flawless, but now it is forced to depend on a simple plot and pure curiosity to keep the reader going. The only reason I did not stop is because I had to know how Pi’s life ended in the end.
-Tejav N., 7th grade