Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi coverLife of Pi is primarily known for the story of the months that Pi Patel spends lost at sea, with only memories of his father’s work as a zookeeper and mutual desperation to protect him from the tiger who shares his lifeboat. However, Pi’s story is framed by reflections on what came before and what happened after that experience. Since washing up on a Mexican beach, Pi has travelled to Canada (his family’s original destination), where he has made a life for himself, shaped both by his affection for his new home—Canada is “a great country much too cold for good sense, inhabited by compassionate, intelligent people with bad hairdos” (p. 6)—and by a complicated history characterised by tragedy, humour, and a fascination with religion. Through Pi’s reflections, and a series of interjections from an observer (the audience for Pi’s story?), readers piece together the story of Pi’s acclimatisation to his new home, from the shame he feels when a waiter criticises the fact that he still eats with his fingers to a description of his current skill in the kitchen, where he creates traditional curries and “vegetarian tacos [that] would be the envy of all Mexico” (p. 27).

The thread of Pi’s immigration narrative is a subtle but important one in this complex novel, inextricable from the story of Pi’s recovery from deep trauma. As is the case for many, making a life in a new place depends on how Pi chooses to rebuild a life destroyed.

Read the Guardian review.

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