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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Life of Pi

Yann Martel

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the author

To purchase Life of Pi

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002
Length: 368 pages
Availability: Life of Pi - US
Life of Pi - UK
Life of Pi - Canada
L'Histoire de Pi - France
Schiffbruch mit Tiger - Deutschland

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Didn't get a copy, never got a round to it

Chances that we will review it:

Possibly, eventually

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 22/2/2003 Tilman Spreckelsen
The Guardian . 25/5/2002 Justine Jordan
The Independent . 22/6/2002 Judith Palmer
London Rev. of Books . 14/11/2002 James Wood
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 20/2/2003 Ilija Trojanow
New Statesman . 29/7/2002 William Skidelsky
The NY Times Book Rev. . 7/7/2002 Gary Krist
The Observer . 26/5/2002 Tim Adams
Salon . 1/8/2002 Suzy Hansen
San Francisco Chronicle A 23/6/2002 Jonathan Kiefer
The Spectator A+ 18/5/2002 Francis King
The Telegraph . 19/5/2002 Jane Shilling
The Telegraph . 1/6/2002 Toby Clements
Time . 26/8/2002 Bryan Walsh
Die Zeit . 27/2/2003 Iris Radisch

  Review Consensus:

  Generally very impressed, and pleasantly surprised by how much he pulls off

  From the Reviews:
  • "All dies schildert Martel ohne allzu großen literarischen Anspruch, aber ihm gelingen einige bezaubernde Natur- und Tierschilderungen (das Faultier ist "nicht wirklich taub, es interessiert sich nur nicht für Geräusche"), und die letzte Gefahr der Schiffbrüchigen, die Begegnung mit einer schwimmenden Insel, verleiht dem zuvor eher sachlichen Erzählton unversehens eine unheimliche Schattierung, die den Text entschieden bereichert." - Tilman Spreckelsen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Despite the extraordinary premise and literary playfulness, one reads Life of Pi not so much as an allegory or magical-realist fable, but as an edge-of-seat adventure." - Justine Jordan, The Guardian

  • "After seven months of escaping the claws of tiger and the maw of despair, Life of Pi does bob a little in the doldrums; but this is compelling storytelling, and Martel is always ready to reel in the reader with a well-turned phrase or tasty aside." - Judith Palmer, The Independent

  • "Of course, in a proper paradox, this magical story is made plausible, and vivid and dramatic, only by the careful application of conventional realist techniques. If we do indeed come to believe this story of survival, if we hardly ever feel that our credulity is being taken for a reckless voyage, it is because Martel patiently builds his narrative case (...) Martel proves, by skilful example, that realism is narrative’s great master, that it schools even its own truants. (...) Nothing marks Life of Pi as a contemporary Postmodern novel more strongly than its theological impoverishment (for all that it seems to scream theological richness): instead of being interested in the theological basis of Pi’s soul, it is really interested only in the theological basis of storytelling." - James Wood, London Review of Books

  • "There are many vivid descriptions, and the whole novel is infused with such childlike exuberance that the odd clumsy expression ("I didn't have pity to spare for long for the zebra") is easy to forgive." - William Skidelsky, New Statesman

  • "Granted, it may not qualify as "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character describes it. But it could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life -- although sticklers for literal realism, poor souls, will find much to carp at. (...) Although Life of Pi works remarkably well on the pure adrenaline-and-testosterone level of a high-seas adventure tale, it's apparent that Martel is not interested in simply retelling the classic lifeboat-survival story" - Gary Krist, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Martel, a Canadian, then endeavours to sustain his fantastical survival story for 300-odd pages. The real trick of this book is that he almost succeeds. (...) Martel has large amounts of intellectual fun with outrageous fable. The novel occasionally develops little disquisitions on the idea of faith, on the limits of credulity or the nature of nature; it asks you to find reference points in Robert Louis Stevenson and Blake, the Bible and the Ramayana. Mostly, it dramatises and articulates the possibilities of storytelling" - Tim Adams, The Observer

  • "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

  • "Right out of the gate, Life of Pi is full of fierce but friendly storytelling energy. It's a real adventure: brutal, tender, expressive, dramatic and disarmingly funny. (...) Though it's still difficult to stop reading when the pages run out, Martel closes the book elegantly." - Jonathan Kiefer, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Apart from its intensely vivid descriptions of Pi's odyssey, this is a novel rich in incidental treasures of thought and style. (...) Here is a writer with a talent as fabulous as the tale that he -- and his Pi -- have to tell." - Francis King, The Spectator

  • "Yann Martel is a vivid and entrancing story-teller -- so vivid, indeed, that a good deal of the fine detail of Pi's shipwreck is really too painful to linger over, which is unfortunate, for by cowardly skimming, one risks losing touch with what is clearly intended to be the intricate allegorical structure of the novel. In any case, the somewhat repetitive horror of the second two-thirds of the story unbalances this structure of the book, making Life of Pi a flawed, if fascinating novel" - Jane Shilling, The Telegraph

  • "Life of Pi never really comes alive in the emotional sense. It is more a novel of proposition and conjecture, a series of narrative questions and solutions. (...) Despite this, Life of Pi is a hilarious novel, full of clever tricks, amusing asides and grand originality." - Toby Clements, The Telegraph

  • "Bengal tigers in lifeboats and Indian boys who worship Allah, Jesus and Hindu gods could easily become precious, but Martel saves his novel from saccharine whimsy by grounding it in hard reality." - Bryan Walsh, Time

  • "Legoland-Literatur" - Iris Radisch, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Life of Pi: Reviews: Yann Martel: Other books by Yann Martel under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Canadian author Yann Martel was born in 1963.

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