The Life Of Pi

The Life Of Pi - Book Review For Your Book Club. If you enjoy a story full of extreme contrasts, humour, jaw dropping danger, fantasy & a sense of the ridiculous, then this is the novel for you and for your Book Club.

Early in the tale, there are so many questions designed to hold our attention to the very end of the Life of Pi

What kind of story has the narrator to tell, which will make us believe in God? Who is Richard Parker & why does Pi have nightmares about him?

"That pain is like an axe that chops at my heart." What exactly does this mean? And how does the narrator finish up in hospital in Mexico? And so on!

The Plot

In the first part of the book we learn about Piscine Molitor Patel, named after swimming baths in Paris, though he later shortens his name to Pi for simplicity & to prevent bullying. He tells us about his early life in Pondicherry, India, where his father runs Pondicherry Zoo. Here, he comes to learn about animals in every way possible which prepares us, the reader, for the rest of the story.

Later, when Pi is sixteen, we learn about his parent's decision to emigrate to Canada because of unrest in India, but on their way across the Pacific Ocean to Canada, their Japanese cargo ship, The Tsimtsum, sinks.

Pi finishes up in a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, a Bengal Tiger & an orang-utan! Yes! A zebra, a hyena, a Bengal Tiger & an orang-utan!  These are some of the animals which were being taken to Canadian zoos.

The major part of the Life of Pi is about the journey on the lifeboat, told retrospectively & in the first person singular, a technique which is good for holding the attention of the reader.

The final part of the story tells of Pi's rescue off the Mexican coast & his recovery in hospital where he is questioned by the authorities about the sinking of the ship some months before. It is here in the third section of the novel that the writer presents us with a twist, which is open to individual interpretation.


Style in The Life Of Pi:    The first part of the story is long, introducing us to Pi & his family, relating his history & showing us how he had been shaped into the person he comes to be. Long & detailed though it is, it is so necessary for it prepares us for Pi's adventures at sea, making what  he meets with & confronts fit in with all we now know. The whole story is easy & interesting to read.

Characters: Pi dominates the story just as the title suggests. Several people have a big effect on his life. For example, his swimming teacher, who gives him his name but none more so than his father who is determined to toughen up both Pi & his brother, illustrated best  through the harrowing story of the goat.


The story of the Life of Pi is about faith, fantasy, tenacity, determination & open-mindedness.

Pi shows such respect for different religions & has a regard for atheists but he can't understand how people can be agnostics. 

Through Pi, the writer illustrates the need to be tolerant. His open-mindedness is to be greatly admired.    


Although very raw at times & ridiculous, the writer takes his reader  on the ultimate imaginative read. In Pi, we have a hero who is older than his years & who has characteristics  which we would all like to emulate. How we interpret the ending of the story is up to the individual reader but it shouldn't detract from the values of the tale for that is what it is; a tale.


1. Did you find the story too far fetched or just bits of it?

2. Is the story well written?

3. Did the Life of Pi make you believe in God or strengthen the belief you already have?

4. How did you interpret the last part of the story? Do you agree that there could be more than one interpretation? If so what are they?

5. Do you agree with some readers that the first part of the book is far too long & is in danger of losing the readers interest before getting to the best section?

6. How would you describe the humour in the story; that is if you do find any throughout the novel?

7. Is there a stronger religious feel to the novel than has been highlighted in these notes?


Our Book Club really enjoyed this book and even had an outing to see the film. We gave both the film and the book 8/10. The movie really brings the story to life in a larger than life way and sticks pretty closely to the book. 

There are elements that the film does better (many of the visual elements like the meeting of the whales) and there are

other areas where the book is better - that first descriptive part of the book where we learn about Pi is condensed in the film for example.

Some of this story is not for the faint hearted but the writer is a wonderful story teller, giving us a fantasy journey, where Pi is tried to his limits  & wins. The story is about tenacity & doggedness.

 It's about his knowledge of animals gained at the zoo in Pondicherry & applied with determination on the boat. He never gives up & as we share his journey which ends in Mexico, the themes become obvious. There is so much humour in the story too, at times, laugh out loud humour.
It's hard to imagine that reading this novel might make anyone believe in God as strongly claimed at the beginning of the book but it might make some readers more tolerant of individual beliefs along with other lessons from this wonderful, beautifully told story.

Definitely a great book for your book club.

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