Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

Image from Fiction Writers Review

"He did not know if she was a lens to forget the past or a fog to obscure the future."

Such language is typical of Michael Ondaatje, who published poetry before he got his novels into print. Much as I love this author's evocative lines, I was left feeling unsatisfied after listening to Divisadero. Too many divisions there to hold my interest till the very end.

In the beginning, I cared deeply about Anna and Claire and Coop. The father figure became real and almost sympathetic when he happened upon the lovers. I waited through the book for closure to this original story. For me, it never came.

The scenes in France went on at great length and in great depth, yet they did not seem to connect satisfactorily. This tangent divided from and outgrew the original tale. 

Important dramatic questions remained unanswered. Does Coop meet the stepfather who beat him? What happens after the three are reunited? Do the gamblers kill Bridget? The list goes on.

I love this writer's other work. His first novel, In the Skin of a Lion, is a work of staggering genius; indeed. I've never understood why it's never been made into a movie. It would be easily as gripping as The English Patient. Anil's Ghost and The Cat's Table were different from the previous two, each wonderful in its own way.

I felt the stories that inspired Divisadero lacked sufficient scope to allow the characters to arrive at a certain closure, and to reward the reader with a hint of the "moral solace" we seek in fiction.

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