Life of Pi Critical Overview
by Yann Martel

Life of Pi book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Life of Pi Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Critical Overview

The U.S. publication of Life of Pi in mid-2002 was preceded by its publication in Canada in 2001 and the United Kingdom in early 2002. In Great Britain, The Daily Telegraph (London) criticized it as a novel that “never really comes alive in the emotional sense” due to its concern with pursuing “a series of narrative questions and solutions.” Nonetheless, it praised Martel’s book as a “hilarious novel, full of clever tricks, amusing asides and grand originality.” The London Observer echoed this praise in saying that “Martel has large amounts of intellectual fun with outrageous fable” as he creates a book that “dramatises and articulates the possibilities of storytelling.” The Guardian continued this theme of praise for the book's fantastic nature by calling it “an edge-of-seat adventure” and an “enormously lovable novel is suffused with wonder.” However, the reviewer slightly tempered this sense of fantasy by noting that Martel’s narrator “has a believer's scepticism about reason.”

In the United States, reviews continued to effusively praise Life of Pi with an emphasis on its magical qualities, humor, and meticulous creation of a believable yet fantastic story. said that although the novel’s premise “might sound ridiculous,” that “by the time Martel throws Pi out to sea, his quirkily magical and often hilarious vision has already taken hold.” Pi, the reviewer wrote, has a "nonreligious kind of understanding and faith.” Publishers Weekly said Martel takes the reader on “a fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient.” The New York Times observed that as a zookeeper’s son, Pi is “attuned to the intricacies of interspecies cohabitation,” and he uses this knowledge to gain power over the tiger who accompanies him, and thereby keep himself alive. The reviewer further claimed that since Pi is “a practitioner of three major religions who also happens to have a strong background in science,” his “story inevitably takes on the quality of a parable .” Martel's book, the review continued, “could renew your faith...

(The entire section is 514 words.)