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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Life of Pi: Press views
Yann Martel
The Booker Prize winner is announced on 22 October
The press review Yann Martel's second novel Life of Pi.

The Sunday Independent

How much of this survival story is based on fact (and what we mean by the "truth" of fiction), is another question altogether, and it is one that Martel himself tackles in the final pages of his novel. One of the most talented of contemporary Canadian writers, he has a slightly precious style that is not to all tastes, but at his best, Martel is dazzling.

The Guardian

In its subject and its style, this enormously lovable novel is suffused with wonder: a willed innocence that produces a fresh, sideways look at our habitual assumptions, about religious divisions, or zoos versus the wild, or the possibility of freedom. As Martel promises in his author's note, this is fiction probing the imaginative realm with scientific exactitude, twisting reality to "bring out its essence".

The Sunday Telegraph

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 - though as with some jewels, the flaws are arguably part of the charm.

The Daily 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. You discover the reason for this only in the last few pages, when Pi offers an alternative explanation to up-end your assumptions. A cloud covers the sun and there is the possibility of a darkness so complete as to be absolutely nihilistic.

London Evening Standard

This curious man-animal relationship never drifts into anthropomorphic sentimentality, or an episode from the Jungle Book. Pi knows that he is always, potentially, Richard Parker's lunch. But nor can he survive without the companionship of his feral seamate. He deals with Richard Parker as a lion tamer would, learning how to assert territory and dominance. He tells his story as a young zoologist.

The Observer

In recent weeks, in the literary pages, there have been reports of the death of magic realism, that catch-all genre of Eighties exoticism spawned by the loose global grouping of Marquez and Rushdie and Calvino. On the evidence of Yann Martel's second novel it would seem that these reports have been greatly exaggerated.

Daily Mail

You may also need stamina for some laborious opening chapters. But make it to the sinking of the ship on page 97 - when the plot really picks up - and your reward will be an inventive, shocking and ultimately uplifting story of a child's determination not only to survive but also to preserve the truth.

The Times

This is a novel, says the jacket blurb, that will make you believe in God. I am not sure about that. But it is a story so magical, so playful, so harrowing and astonishing that it will make you believe imagination might be the first step.

Sunday Times

Yann Martel's third work of fiction, Life of Pi, is a terrific book. It's fresh, original, smart, devious, and crammed with absorbing lore. But, that said, caveat emptor. Life of Pi is not just a readable and engaging novel, it's a finely twisted length of yarn - yarn implying a far-fetched story you can't quite swallow whole, but can't dismiss outright.

Coverage of the 2002 Booker Prize from BBC News Online and BBCi Arts




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15 Oct 02 | Reviews
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