Blood, Sweat, and Tears. – A thorough review of the book, In the Skin of a Lion.

by Ardavan

The author, Michael Ondaatje has portrayed the life and struggle of workers in ‘20s and ‘30s era Toronto through a unique way. The novel, In the Skin of a Lion is split into 3 different parts, each of which containing different stories that have relation with the main plot. Even though, the book is split into separate sections, the reader will still consider it as chapters. This is due to Ondaatje’s method of beautifully crafting each story into an interconnected web of plots. Ondaatje will leave the reader with ongoing thoughts at the end of each book. As expected each section of the book is in chronological order. This  allows for the reader to understand the progression of the protagonist and others involved.

Patrick Lewis serving as the protagonist faces many challenges throughout his ambitious transitions from book one to book three. Book one has 3 chapters which serves as the foundation of the novel. It is the stepping stone of the various actions Patrick would face. Michael Ondaatje’s use of imagery is apparent from the beginning. The use of literary device is emotionally driven to create a powerful, yet effective method in bringing the dark into light. Characters are directly introduced in the span of the whole novel. A love story is also very apparent in this novel. Patrick’s intimacy with other characters creates further conflict. In the midst of the book, a characters death leads to a climatic scenario involving Patrick, and the author creates a thrilling suspense. The author also includes various settings; therefore the novel takes the reader on a ride through time. Granted, majority of the suspense revolves around the construction of a bridge connecting 2 cities, and a water filtration plant.Yet,  surprising events unfold.

In each scenario Michael Ondaatje effectively restates history in the workers perspective. Rather than what history is known to be written in the eyes of the rich. Furthermore, Ondaatje tries to express the value of life. A fan of Ondaatje’s works might also see similarities along with the use of poetic devices in this novel. In addition, most places mentioned in the book are real and some such as the filtration plant is considered to be a landmark. Everything about this book has a smooth transition written all over it, except the very end. No further detail is really given to the reader about the situation at the very last page. Overall, this is a very powerful and evocative book that fills the readers mind with different viewpoints. There is a strong structural similarity between In the Skin of a Lion and the hit 2004 movie Crash. Both have interconnected plots that are all revealed as the story progresses.  This novel should be considered to those who have interest in Canadian history and/or Michael Ondaatje’s previous works. Either way, a very good read! Highly recommend!


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