Sunday, July 21, 2013

divisadero: review

This isn't the first time I've read this book, so I was thinking I'd just get to update the review. Only apparently I forgot to review it the last time. That I had already read it once is about the highest praise I can give a book. Nothing in my 'too read' stack appealed at the moment I was looking for a book, and I hadn't yet picked up a copy of my next book club book, so I just needed something to get e by until I got to the bookstore. No doubt part of why I love Divisadero so much and why I wanted to read it again is because, of late, I've been obsessed with San Francisco, and the title just glowed at me. 

I have read a lot of Michael Ondaatje's writing, and I expect I'll read a lot more. While Divasdero is not The English Patient, it is richly poetic, deeply human, and constantly shifting. Reading any Ondaatje is  like watching the sun reflecting off the sea. If you haven't read any Ondaatje, start here or with In the Skin of a Lion. If you start with what you think you know because of the movie, you will be lost in comparison instead of in Ondaatje's incredible skill with language. You would be ripping yourself and the writing off.

The story is split between California and France, between now and then, between sisters and fathers and dreams and realities. It is painful and peaceful and enthralling. There's a slow air about it - like laying in a stream and letting the water wash over your skin, the language flows past you. There are moments of high tension, but they are balanced with moments of small beauty - Buddhist flags fluttering in a breeze, the way a cat is always present but rarely visible, the buzz and hum of insects in a summer forest.
... there was water nearby, and as soon as he assumed that, he began to smell it in the air and stood up, lifting his face to the sky. He bustled forward and within moments came upon the small lake. He stripped down and slipped into the water, all the scratches and bites on him covered now in its coolness. 
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1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I'm not familiar with Michael Ondaatje's writing, I'll definitely check him out. Thanks!


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