Life of Pi by Yann Martel - review by Sebastian Shakespeare

Sebastian Shakespeare

The Hyena Gets It

Life of Pi


Canongate 319pp £12.99 order from our bookshop


The plot of this novel is compellingly bizarre. Imagine a thriller set on Noah's Ark and that’ll give you something of the flavour of the book. It is based on the true story of a sixteen-year-old Indian boy who survived seven months in a lifeboat at sea. His fellow castaways in the vessel comprised a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan and a Royal Bengal tiger. Pi, the son of a zookeeper, was travelling on board the Tsimtsum with his family in 1977 to start a new life in Canada. Four days out of Madras, the cargo ship went down with all hands except Pi, who was thrown overboard into the lifeboat where the four animals had already taken refuge. The book chronicles in detail his epic voyage of 227 days at sea (Captain Bligh, you'll recall, went down in the annals of maritime history for enduring a mere forty-seven days in an open boat).

In the foreword, Canadian author Yann Martel explains how he stumbled on the story by chance while travelling in Pondicherry. Later he tracked down the adult Pi, now living in Toronto, in order to interview him and read his nautical diary. It is an astounding tale, which at times one

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