Overview: When the cargo ship Tsimtsum sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the sole lifeboat that is deployed contains wool blankets, emergency rations, and signal flares — as well as a young Indian boy and a Bengal tiger. Adrift at sea for over seven months, the boy called Pi draws from the practical knowledge he gleaned from his zookeeper father to learn how to survive with the tiger, whose name is Richard Parker. But it is his religious practices — Hindu, Muslim, and Catholic — that give him the keen insight he develops regarding his trial at sea. This book is not only a riveting story of a shipwreck survivor; it is also a profound reflection on religious faith and even the nature of storytelling itself. Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize, Life of Pi is a story so enchanting, elegant and thought-provoking that you will choose to believe it is true.
Suggestions and Topics for Discussion: 1. At the beginning of the book, the old man in the Indian café tells the author "I have a story that will make you believe in God." While religion is central to Pi's character, the novel is otherwise not overtly religious. In what ways does this book present an argument, however broad, for God? In an October 2002 interview, Martel remarked, "Most people look for the proof of God IN the story, rather than in the fact that there IS a story." How does Martel's distinction shed light on the old man's claim and the novel as a whole?
2. The scenes that take place soon after the ship's sinking involve a limited cast of characters (Pi, the zebra, the hyena, and the orangutan) and a simple stage (the Pacific Ocean). Yet these scenes, which comprise Part Two of the novel, are among the most tense and arresting of the book. Why? What makes this part of the novel, or Pi's account of the situation, so gripping?
3. Discuss Pi's alleged encounter with the French chef, toward the end of his ordeal. Did it "really happen," or was it a figment of Pi's imagination? What evidence are we provided to support either conclusion? Why are we driven to consider this question when it's all fiction anyway?
4. How does the interview with the Japanese businessmen change your reading of the novel? What possible interpretations of Pi's tale are suggested in the course of the interview between Pi and the Japanese businessmen? Which version is "right," or does it even matter?
Muse Notes Plus by Patricia Harrison Copyright 2004 by BookMuse.com. All rights reserved.
It fascinated me that Pi, in the first part of the novel, raised as a Hindu,introduced to Christianity and Islam, tries to follow all three religions. He tries to understand and love God through each religion accepting the benefits of each.
When his family decides to sell their zoo over a land dispute with the government, we get insights into the politics and complications of Indian government. The storytelling becomes wild after his family's death when survivor Pi is in a small lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, and an orangutan. My favorite part was the incredible relationship that Pi and Richard Parker create...very bizarre and totally unbelievable but I could not put the book down.
In the third part of the novel, two Japanese government officials doubt Pi's story and I loved the way he creates a different explanation which might be the truer one and he asks them to pick their preferred one! I am always amazed when a person creates such a complicated plot. I will want to read this book again but am not sure I want to see the movie!
Isabella, November 26, 2012 (view all comments by Isabella)
I started this book thinking it was going to be another survival story, only with a tiger thrown in. I was so wrong. Yann Martel's story was amazingly written and made me feel like I was there on the lifeboat experiencing the character's thoughts and feelings. The situations and settings that Pi found himself in were both beautiful and brutally horrific at once. And then there was the ending.... Fantastic.
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I admit it; before reading Life of Pi, I thought, There's just no way that Yann Martel can write a whole book about a teenage boy and a tiger stranded together in a lifeboat for 277 days. But, I was so wrong; he pulls it off beautifully. You will love this utterly charming and unforgettable book.
by The New Yorker,
"This breezily aphoristic, unapologetically twee saga of man and cat is a convincing hands-on, how-to guide for dealing with what Pi calls, with typically understated brio, 'major lifeboat pests.'"
by Suzy Hansen, Salon.com,
"Martel's Life of Pi might sound ridiculous, but by the time Martel throws Pi out to sea, his quirkily magical and often hilarious vision has already taken hold....Martel is so mesmerized by Pi that one can't help but be enchanted too....Pi's lost-at-sea story never drags. The slow journey is spiked with fascinating survival scenes....Pi's story is so extraordinary that when he finally makes it ashore, he offers a comparatively boring version of the tale to two researchers, acknowledging that humans don't have much of a taste for the miraculous. This played-down version makes Pi's true tale, thanks to Martel's beautifully fantastical and spirited rendering, all the more tempting to believe."
by Paul Evans, Book Magazine,
"A work of wonder....[T]he kind of twist-and-turns spellbinder that's almost impossible to forget."
by The New Yorker,
"An impassioned defense of zoos, a death-defying trans-Pacific sea adventure a la Kon-Tiki, and hilarious... : This audacious novel manages to be all of these."
by The New York Times Book Review,
"Life of Pi could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Life of Pi is a real adventure: brutal, tender, expressive, dramatic, and disarmingly funny....It's difficult to stop reading when the pages run out."
by Los Angeles Times Book Review,
"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction."
This brilliant novel combines the delight of Kipling's "Just So Stories" with the metaphysical adventure of "Jonah and the Whale, " as Pi, the son of a zookeeper, is marooned aboard a lifeboat with four wild animals. His knowledge and cunning allow him to coexist for 227 days with Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger.
A New York Times Notable Book of 2002
Pi Patel, a God-loving boy and the son of a zookeeper, has a fervent love of stories and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family and their zoo animals emigrate from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship. Alas, the ship sinks — and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi. Can Pi and the tiger find their way to land? Can Pi's fear, knowledge, and cunning keep him alive until they do?
More than seven million copies sold...
New York Times Bestseller * Los Angeles Times Bestseller * Washington Post Bestseller * San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller * Chicago Tribune Bestseller
After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan — and a 450-pound royal bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and beloved works of fiction in recent years.
Universally acclaimed upon publication, Life of Pi is a modern classic.
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