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Divisadero (original 2007; edition 2007)
by Michael Ondaatje (Author)
Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje (2007)
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He develops character marvelously. I become immediately involved in every character presented. He also moves plot, making me want more. There is still something missing for me, and I think it is that no one's story seems complete or finished. In the end it is like getting a vignette that is to be continued but never is.
In our lives connections with others are intense for a while, then we move on to others and maybe pick up long forgotten ones. In Divisadero Michael Ondaatje sets out to portray this feeling by describing connected people in essential moments in their lives without showing any resolution. Those of us used to organized plots are disturbed by the lack of continuity. Characters disappear, never to return later in the book. Is my task as reader to imagine how each life develops or are those dropped lives now too trivial to bother with? The only way in which I could justify Ondaatje's approach was seeing the book as a dream where different layers shift and arc to something else. It was an interesting experiment, but I don't think it worked.
I loved the poetic language and the intimacy of each story. I could imagine a series of books in which each of the different stories is told fully.
I can never quite make my mind up about Michael Ondaatje: sophisticated romance for people with university educations, or novels that expect us to take them seriously? He never seems to come off the fence, somehow. This one's a case in point: a positive delight to read, a kind of mashup between The virgin and the gypsy and one of those seventies films where Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford play professional gamblers; full of flattering allusions to French novelists he pretends to assume we've read, with a wealth of interesting settings in California and rural France; a cast of farmers, gamblers, gypsies, and carpenters; interesting romantic tensions between people who are somewhere between lovers and elective siblings, ambiguous scenes that may or may not be taking place in the characters' imaginations, connections across space and time, even a little dash of World War I. But it does leave you wondering afterwards what it's all for.
I am glad I finally got around to reading Divisadero. Michael Ondaatje is one of the greater authors of our times, and I greatly enjoyed his previous books. But Divisadero left me somewhat dissatisfied.
Michael Ondaatje’s prose is superb, but prose alone doesn’t a great book make. Divisadero's plot - or plots, as two stories are told – feel contrived, as if plots and characters were only the venue to beautifully crafted language. This is maybe true of all Ondaatje’s books, but in his previous works the characters surface from the depth of the poetic narrative with great humanity. And, in Divisadero, I never truly developed great sympathy for the characters. The characters seemed interchangeable and therefore difficult to empathize with individually.
I would still recommend this book to readers that are moved by clean and beautiful language. But, to anyone not yet acquainted with Ondaatje’s previous books, I would suggest that they try The English Patient or In the Skin of a Lion first.
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Wikipedia in English (2)
In California, then the Nevada casino's, 1970 a makeshift family of a father, daughter, adopted daughter and farm hand's lives are shattered by a traumatic event and they are sent off on separate courses.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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that said, this didn't work for me as much as i wanted it to. it was still beautiful and lovely and made me care more than i expected about some of the characters and situations, but some of it seemed a little untethered and incomplete. but. the writing. goodness the writing. ( )