I had really high expectations for this book before reading it. It has been raved about and turned into a movie. Plus, I think tigers are cool.
It held up to expectation.
What really struck me about this book wasn't so much the plot, which was great, or the characters, which were great, but the descriptive detail. Yann Martel was so vividly descriptive I could smell the salt water and hear the tiger.
What also struck me were some elements that were revealed casually, way before they fell in the plot line, told without the vivid detail. But somehow those jumps made the book even better. For example Martel reveals that Pi survives 227 days on the liferaft. He removes the suspense of how long. We already know from the description on the book jacket that he survives. But somehow, the wonder of that lengthy survival makes you pay even more attention.
This book is successful because you don't just read about a castaway on a lifeboat with a 450 lb Bengal tiger. You are in the boat with them.
This book is successful because it doesn't separate amazing, heroic survivers from those that drowned. Instead, it wraps them together. How else can an Indian boy who is a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Christian, a zookepers son, and a philosopher turn into a survivalist tiger tamer? He is just a small part of a bigger story.
At the beginning, the writer is told this is a story that will make him believe in God. When you read this book, look past the plot, which is great, into the philosophical ideas that are being explored. I think you will find that there are many, many layers to this story, and only one of them has to do with a boy and a tiger.