Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Life of Pi - joint thoughts

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Our joint thoughts:

M: The main plot in Life of Pi is about a boy who gets shipwrecked and finds himself on a lifeboat with a tiger and some other animals with a sub-plot about religion and stories. This is all very beautifully, humorously and thoughtfully written.  

Little M finished the novel before me. I had only read Part 1 before we saw the film. After seeing the film, I realised I had to make a choice between two stories. And I could only do that if I finished the book. So I did and I’m pleased. Life of Pi has prompted more discussions about fiction between Little M and me than any other novel yet.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Little M: I liked that a boy was on a boat with a tiger because it showed that Pi was able to cope with the tiger; and also the fact he was stranded in the middle of the ocean on a life boat.
M: I like books that are meaningful but funny. I liked Pi as a narrator because I found him very funny. That is surprising considering the story he is narrating.

Little M: I think this is a very thought provoking novel, it makes you think about religion and God. I didn't think about this when I was reading the book but when I started talking to M, she got me thinking about the religion and the God part of the book.  

M: It was the aspects about religion that stood out most for me. In the first part of the novel Pi goes into great detail about his relationships and difficulties with a few religions. He questions what is really different about them. And for me that is what Life of Pi is about.

Little M: I agree with some of what you have said but I also think it is about a relationship with an animal too. The main aspect could be to do with God and religion but I think a sub-plot could be to do with a relationship between humans and animals.

M: The thing I liked the most about Life of Pi was that it was all about reliable narration, truths and story creations. Because of this, I could read part1, go and see the wonderful film, have a discussion, conclude multiple possibilities and then rush to finish the book. And then, still have lots and lots of discussion about what happened.

A discussion that started off about which story in the novel is ‘true’ soon became a discussion (and realisation) that authors can play games with their readers. This came about when Little M started to explain why she believed one story more. Yes, it was the story she liked more, but was it also because this story was more detailed? Yes. But why was it more detailed? Perhaps it is more detailed because this is the story that the fictional author, the writer who meets with adult Pi Patel, has chosen to write. Obviously, it was his preferred story too.  In the case of Life of Pi, there is more than one author and narrator. Our discussion moved on to counting how many authors are involved with this piece of fiction. Enter Little M’s first knowing encounter with the unreliable narrator.

Little M: Life of Pi was the most challenging book I have read so far. A few years back, M would never have thought that I would read a Man Booker winner before her (I never knew there was this award). So this read was a great achievement for me and I think I will always remember this book. 

If we had to dress up for World Book Day we would both go as Richard Parker. We will not tell you who Richard Parker is because that would be a bit of a spoiler.

Publication details:  2002, Canongate, Edinburgh (first published 2001, Alfred A Knopf, Canada)
This copy: 2009 edition, our own


  1. I've never really been interested in reading this but I think I will now that I've seen your review. I love it when you both discuss like this and, in a way, I think it is a lot more effective than a longer review.
    Thanks for sharing! :)

    1. Thanks, Lucy. Life of Pi sat on my bookshelves for a while before Little M picked it up and finished it. Having someone else to talk it over with just brings a book to life in ways that you can't in your own head - and no matter how long you write a review.....but you know, you go to a book club; it's similar.

    2. I have seen the movie and read the book. There is a lot there or is there? Are we reading TOO much into this?? Perhaps it is simply a demonstration of how a young boy has dealt with the trama he witnessed and had to survive through and the story told as people being animals and cannibalism was his way of coping with what he lived through???

    3. Yes, that's a compelling view for sure and the one that the ship's interrogators held. But there's still that element of doubt - and perhaps hope that the preferred and fantastical story was real. Either way, it's an interesting expose of how and what stories we choose to believe or simply prefer.


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