In the Skin of a Lion Review

by spencersmyl

             “In the Skin of a Lion”, a novel written by Michael Ondaatje, illustrates a brilliant and imaginative lure of history, passion and opportunity in Toronto during the 1920s. This highly descriptive novel conveys a vividly accurate representation of this time period. In a time rich with immigration, innovation and imagination, the reader is taken through the life of Patrick Lewis. Through Patrick, Ondaatje develops a story of interconnected relations in which progress throughout the novel, adding depth and a sense of realism. In-doing-so, the reader is taken to different periods in Patrick’s life. Beginning in the hinterland of Ontario, where Patrick learns curiously from his father and the surrounding of his home town, in which he will later put to use. He then finds himself years later in the city of Toronto, where he finds love and romance with the already taken Carla Dickens, working hard labour jobs, lost for the linchpin of love, arson, and prison. From these challenges that Patrick faces throughout the novel, Ondaatje is able to construct a literary discourse that displays an environment tantamount to that of 1920s.

                 It is the descriptive writing of Ondaatje that truly brings the mood of the 1920s to the reader. Scoping from long in depth passages to the laconic structure of sentences is how Ondaatje is primarily able to develop his novel in such a way that displays the decade in an elegant and intrinsic way. He intricately describes the historical beauty of Toronto through the hard, bitter, and demanding work of the largely immigrant working class. These people who built the city through the visions of others went largely unrecognized with little historical documentation in real life. What Ondaatje does is he creates a world using Toronto’s historical infrastructure, such as the Bloor Street Viaduct, and gives these workers a sense of background and depth. Without the labour from these workers it would have been impossible to have Toronto where it is today, and Ondaatje offers genuine tribute to these workers by representing them through the mood and theme of his novel, using Patrick as his vehicle.

            Throughout the whole novel the reader will not be disappointed with Ondaatje’s literary prowess of his poetic and novelistic skills. As he seemingly under develops parts of the plot, it allows the reader to fill in the gaps with their imagination, creating a somewhat hybrid vision of both Ondaatje and the reader. Ondaatje, in the bigger picture, gives sense of meaning and story to the historical development of Toronto in the 1920s. If you as a reader enjoy a poetic and novelistic contrast of history, passion and opportunity then Michael Ondaatje’s “In the Skin of a Lion” is your next read.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: