Synopses & Reviews
The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.
The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional — but is it more true?
"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.'" The New Yorker
"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." Suzy Hansen, Salon.com
"A work of wonder....[T]he kind of twist-and-turns spellbinder that's almost impossible to forget." Paul Evans, Book Magazine
"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." The New Yorker
"Life of Pi could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life." The New York Times Book Review
"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." San Francisco Chronicle
"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction." Los Angeles Times Book Review
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.
About the Author
Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. After studying philosophy at university, he worked at odd jobs—tree-planter, dishwasher, security guard—and traveled widely before turning to writing at the age of twenty-six. He is the author of a collection of short stories; three novels, including the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, which spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and Beatrice and Virgil; and a collection of letters to the Prime Minister of Canada, What is Stephen Harper Reading? Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Reading Group Guide
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.
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
Notes Plus by Patricia Harrison
2004 by BookMuse.com. All rights reserved.
A Guide for Reading Groups God, survival, and tiger behavior. It's hard to imagine a more invigorating combination of discussion topics. We hope that the following questions will enrich your reading of Pi's fantastic journey. After all, Pi didn't have to make his voyage alone; neither should you. May this guide serve as a pleasant companion.. Q> In his introductory note Yann Martel says, "This book was born as I was hungry." What sort of emotional nourishment might Life of Pi have fed to its author? Q> Pondicherry is described as an anomaly, the former capital of what was once French India. In terms of storytelling, what makes this town a appropriate choice for Pi's upbringing? Q> Yann Martel recalls that many Pondicherry residents provided him with stories, but he was most intrigued by this tale because Mr. Adirubasamy said it would make him believe in God. Did Pi's tale alter your beliefs about God? Q> Early in the novel, we discover that the narrator majored in religious studies and zoology, with particular interests in a sixteenth-century Kabbalist and the admirable three-toed sloth. In subsequent chapters, he explains the ways in which religions and zoos are both steeped in illusion. Discuss some of the other ways in which these two fields find unlikely compatibility. Q> Yann Martel sprinkles the novel with italicized memories of the "real" Pi Patel and wonders in his author's note whether fiction is "the selective transforming of reality, the twisting of it to bring out its essence." If this is so, what is the essence of Pi? Q> Pi's full name, Piscine Molitor Patel, was inspired by a Parisian swimming pool that "the gods would have delighted to swim in." The shortened form refers to the ratio of a circle's circumference divided by its diameter. Explore the significance of Pi's unusual name. Q> One reviewer said the novel contains hints of The Old Man and the Sea, and Pi himself measures his experience in relation to history's most famous castaways. Considering that Pi's shipwreck is the first to focus on a boy and his tiger, how does Life of Pi compares to other maritime novels and films? Q> How might the novel's flavor have been changed if Pi's sole surviving animal were the zebra or Orange Juice? (We assume that if the hyena had been the only surviving animal, Pi would not have lived to tell us his story.) Q> In chapter 23, Pi sparks a lively debate when all three of his spiritual advisors try to claim him. At the heart of this confrontation is Pi's insistence that he cannot accept an exclusively Hindu, Christian, or Muslim faith; he can only be content with all three. What is Pi seeking that can solely be attained by this apparent contradiction? Q> What do you make of Pi's assertion at the beginning of chapter 16 that we are all "in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God"? Do you believe that Pi's piousness was a response to his father's atheism? Q> Among Yann Martel's gifts is a rich descriptive palette. Regarding religion, he observes the green elements that represent Islam and the orange tones of Hinduism. What color would Christianity be, according to Pi's perspective? Q> How do the human beings in your world reflect the animal behavior observed by Pi? What do Pi's strategies for dealing with Richard Parker teach us about confronting the fearsome creatures in our lives? Q> Besides the loss of his family and possessions, what else did Pi lose when the Tsimtsum sank? What did he gain? Q> Nearly everyone experiences a turning point that represents the transition from youth to adulthood, albeit seldom as traumatic as Pi's. What event marks your coming of age? Q> How do Mr. Patel's zookeeping abilities compare to his parenting skills? Discuss the scene in which his tries to teach his children a lesson in survival by arranging for them to watch a tiger devour a goat. Did this in any way prepare Pi for the most dangerous experience of his life? Q> Why did Pi at first try so hard to save Richard Parker? Q> Pi imagines that his brother would have teasingly called him Noah. How does Pi's voyage compare to the biblical story of Noah, who was spared from the flood while God washed away the sinners? Q> Is Life of Pi a tragedy, romance, or comedy? Q> Do you agree with Pi's opinion that a zoo is more like a suburb than a jail? Q> How did you react to Pi's interview by the Japanese transport ministers? Did you ever believe that Pi's mother, along with a sailor and a cannibalistic cook, had perhaps been in the lifeboat with him instead of the animals? How does Yann Martel achieve such believability in his surprising plots? Q> The opening scene occurs after Pi's ordeal has ended. Discussing his work in the first chapter, Pi says that a necktie is a noose, and he mentions some of the things that he misses about India (in spite of his love for Canada). Would you say that this novel has a happy ending? How does the grown-up version of Pi contrast with his little-boy scenes?
Copyright 2002 Harcourt Trade Publishers