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In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
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In the Skin of a Lion (1987)

by Michael Ondaatje

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I didn't take to this book. While it has great writing, the plot has no sympathetic characters, and metaphors and similes get tiring after awhile. A Canadian classic for some, for me it was a colossal bore. ( )
  charlie68 | Jul 17, 2014 |
Read first, I believe, in 1996 when I was working on an author project in an English Dept. Graduate Methods class. I may have read it earlier, as I did The English Patient & perhaps others of Ondaatje's prose books. If read earlier, I imagine I read it again in '96. I came away with the opinion that it is my favorite among his novels. Now, rereading, I realize that I remembered almost nothing about it, except that it takes place in Toronto at the time of the building of a signature bridge & then a viaduct to a reimagined waterworks. I also remembered that Caravaggio & Hana from The English Patient appear in it as characters. But, I encountered Patrick Lewis, Clara, Alice Gull, Commissioner Harris, & Nicolas Temelcoff as if "new." Ondaatje leaves gaps in his stories. He doesn't explain everything, even when he makes a move that apparently fills the reader in on what has happened. For example, the incident that killed Alice Gull. I like this, but am now a bit less patient with Ondaatje's lyrical prose. (The poetic quality of his prose was the most frequent criticism of Ondaatje's writing that I encountered when surveying the critical literature in '96. I didn't agree at the time, but have moved closer to that camp, 15 years later.) In the end, the prose largely seduced me once again, however. And seductive is how I've always considered the experience of reading Ondaatje's novels. Seductive, not just because of the language (I love the anecdote that I once came upon in an interview of the author, where he admitted to taking commas in and out obsessively, until a novel has to be wrenched from his hands to be sent off to the publisher. As a poet myself, I very much relate to this mania) but because of his male characters. He writes men that women can fall for, whether these are the "perfect" men for them or not. As for his female characters, although they become more & more real to me from one novel to the next (Hana is a precursor), they don't exert the same power over me. I can leave their presence, whereas, for example, I might really like to stick around Patrick, Caravaggio & Nicolas, for the sheer bad-boy sensuality of it all. ( )
1 vote Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
i first read this when i was going through some personal issues and so felt i didn't give it it's due at the time. rereading it 4.5 years later, i see i only remember 2 scenes from the entire book, and the rest is new to me.

there is a lot that i like in this book, but overall it's a bit too gossamery and subtle for me. i want the plot points to be a little more threaded together. but the language is great, and fits the book and the style perfectly.

in the end, i can say that i enjoyed this book, but i can't even articulate what it was about, exactly, other than maybe the immigrant experience. but that simplifies and coarsens the experience of this book...that i can't quite name or identify. ( )
1 vote elisa.saphier | Dec 31, 2013 |
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
A radiant work that shimmers with every page. ( )
  Davida.Chazan | Sep 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
"In the Skin of a Lion stands alone, lovely and strange ... the book's special strength and delight is the exuberant but wonderfully controlled poetry of Ondaatje's workers."
added by GYKM | editLost Angeles Times
 
"It's an exotic blend of fact and fiction, bringing together real people and events and a cast of colourful fictional characters.... There is romance, lust and mystery."
added by GYKM | editProvince (Vancouver)
 
"Nearly every page reveals another example of Ondaatje's precise, beautiful and startlingly original language."
added by GYKM | editAtlanta Journal-Constitution
 
"In the Skin of a Lion has the scope and wealth of incident of a popular novel and the destiny and texture of a prose poem."
added by GYKM | editWashington Post Book World
 
"Intoxicatingly immediate."
added by GYKM | editSunday Times
 

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Epigraph
The joyful will stoop with sorrow, and when
you have gone to the earth I will let my hair
grow long for your sake, I will wander through
the wilderness in the skin of a lion.

THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

Never again will a single story be told as though it were only one.

JOHN BERGER
Dedication
This book is in memory of Michel Lambeth,
Sharon Stevenson, and Bill and Michael Acres

And for Linda, and Sarah Sheard and David Young
First words
IF HE IS AWAKE early enough the boy sees the men walk
past the farmhouse down First Lake Road.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679772669, Paperback)

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. 256 pp.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:00 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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