In the Skin of a Lion Review

by stefmiele

The novel, In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje is a heartbreaking love story set in Toronto during the 1900’s. In the skin of a Lion was written as if it is three different books put into one. It is a novel that is written in poetic prose undeniably requires gradual, concentrated and re-readings in order to grasp the main plot, themes, ideas and character relationships. The novel was somewhat confusing, but as I read on I began to see that the book gradually developed and I was able to understand.

The novel jumps between one story and another, primarily focusing on a totally different aspect of characters lives and setting than the previous part. The novel also does a phenomenal job of articulating the base of love, romance and relationships through multiple characters: Alice Gull, Clara Dickens, Ambrose Small and Patrick Lewis.

The main plot in In the Skin of a Lion focuses on Patrick’s journey in life, the people he meets along the way and the complications he has to overcome. The book starts off as Patrick as an eleven-year-old living outside a logging camp with his father, Hazen, a logger and self-taught explosives expert, which we see plays a major part throughout the book, to the two women he falls deeply in love with and the daughter he raises despite not being his, to threatening to blow up the water treatment facility that he played a major role in creating. When he is older, Patrick reflects on his life and notes that is no longer “a single story but part of a mural… a fitting together of accomplices.” (145) Alice explained to him that it was time for him to tell his own story, even though she nor her friend, Clara did not reveal anything about their pasts, leaving Patrick and us, the readers, to guess. The three remarkably different parts in the novel are different time periods in Patrick’s life and the different people he meets and the way they help him accomplish his journey through life.

Word Count: 343

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