06 March 2009

In the skin of a lion - Michael Ondaatje

I will admit that the Promethean effort it took me to slog through "The English Patient" put me off of Ondaatje for a little while. I should not abstain from such a fine Canadian writer for too long, as "In the skin of a lion" has thought me to do so would rob me of such beautiful prose.

Ondaatje has crafted a brilliant and magical - if not mysterious - work that hauntingly depicts the lives and sacrifices that the immigrant class gave to building the infrastructure of early 20th Century Toronto. To say he has literally magnified their plight would be an understatement. He has given substances to those who previously appeared as mere shadows, if at all. The unnamed and unidentified persons who often gave much more than their lives - they poured their souls into the city in the very concrete that went into such mega-projects as the Bloor Street Viaduct.

A beautiful tale of love and labour; lust and passion. Ondaatje has crafted a serenly evocative tale of people and place. A definite recommended read (the cherry on the side being that it is actually a prequel to the English Patient!)

Patrick looks up - at the grey rock of the swimming hole, the oak towering over the dirty brush that spikes out of the snow. There is a clear blue sky. The boy feels as if he has not seen these things in years. Till this moment there was just his father, the black and white shape of the cow, and that terrible black water which cut into his eyes when he opened them down there.