Thursday, 7 July 2016

I dunno, just book stuff: Michael Ondaatje's "Divisadero"

"I dunno, just book stuff" is (for lack of a better word) a series where I just write down my thoughts after finishing a book. It's not quite a book review, it's .. just book stuff.

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

My rating: 3/5

This book had been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time. I am a huge fan of the English Patient (both book and movie) because it evokes such a sense of orange sandy desert. I just feel warm and all alone when I read it. I know it's rare to enjoy a book forced upon you in a high school English class, but I loved it, even with its annoying ambiguity and "penis sleeping like a seahorse" descriptions that send classrooms into waves of snickering. I picked up Divisadero with the hopes of finding a similar, all encompassing reading sensation. While engrossing, I would not say it hit as big of a punch as the English Patient did.

It seems like this sense of loneliness pervades Ondaatje's writing. His characters seem to have an inability or a complete lack of desire to become close to anyone. They all seem so lost, so not of this world. They inhabit places abandoned by war, out in the unpopulated countryside, or live in a past where everyone was anonymous.

Ondaatje has a tendency to get a little flowery at times. A friend of mine likes to describe his writing as very "purple". I'll admit that there were times when I would zone out but those were mainly in the sections where characters would muse about their pasts. The sections that were focused on card houses and Californian farm life were much more grounded in reality.

This story centres around a pair of sisters and a farm hand who grew up together in California as part of a family of circumstance. Ondaatje has us follow Anna and Claire and Cooper as they become adults. The thing about Ondaatje's stories that has me coming back time and time again is his exploration of how certain events in a person's life can effect them forever. It is something I worry about for my own life: Will I experience something that will destroy me? Will someone's death change my outlook on life? Will I forever be haunted by a lost love? All of his characters survive their lives, but I don't know how many of them thrive in life.


Please let me know in the comments below:

Have you read Divisadero? What did you think? Are you a die hard Ondaatje fan or can you not stand writers who get a little flowery?

What should I read next?

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