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 English Patient

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“The final curtain is closing on the Second World War, and Hana, a nurse, stays behind in an abandoned Italian villa to tend to her only remaining patient. Rescued by Bedouins from a burning plane, he is English, anonymous, damaged beyond recognition and haunted by his memories of passion and betrayal. The only clue Hana has to his past is the one thing he clung on to through the fire – a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, covered with hand-written notes describing a painful and ultimately tragic love affair.”

Michael Ondaatje is a poet and visionary. He unravels this non-chonological tale in wisps of dynamic and haunting language, draws a vivid landscape through words and delves deeply into the lives and souls of the integral characters. The English Patient is at once a tragic love story as well as an exploration of the human need for meaning and acceptance. Being Ondaatje, it also questions nationality and identity through the disparate backgrounds of the characters brought together by the villa. Beautiful, but also a slightly challenging read.

4stars

 

MA