In The Skin of a Lion

679772669“Bristling with intelligence and shimmering with romance, this novel tests the boundary between history and myth. Patrick Lewis arrives in Toronto in the 1920s and earns his living searching for a vanished millionaire and tunneling beneath Lake Ontario. In the course of his adventures, Patrick’s life intersects with those of characters who reappear in Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning The English Patient.

The back cover blurb is a bit of a review in itself, but not much of a give away on the plot or characters. Ondaatje’s novel provides insight into the life of immigrants in Canada during the early 20th century and takes the reader on a fragmented journey through memory and place. Multiple story lines and focalisations create a jigsaw of a narrative that unfolds itself slowly unravelling unique and in-depth personas. The novel explores the nature of memory and the recording of history, change – social and otherwise, violence, love and dreams. In addition, postcolonial themes such as voicelessness, power and issues of identity and nationality are also strong undercurrents. Another enchanting and poetic novel by Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of the Lion is actually on the HSC prescribed text list for Advanced Module B.

4stars

MA

The Blind Assassin

blind-assassin

The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister’s death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassinit is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.”

Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize winner is a clever multi-layered story within a story within a story. She seamlessly slips between concurrent plot lines and devises characters that are both believable and intriguing. Against the backdrop of significant events of the 20th century in Canada, Atwood explores poignant themes of  love, duty, humility, strength, youth and maturity, family dynamics and the the nature of memory. A brilliantly woven tale of human passion, weakness and the desire to be heard.

4starsMA