The City of Love

by brittlu

Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion is a novel revolving around love and romance, conflict and mystery set in the developing city of Toronto based in the 20’s and 30’s. Ondaatje mixes a blend of fact and fictional characters whose lives and stories come to life through poetry and a beautiful sense of realism and visualization. We are immersed into the minds of immigrants who built the city concentrating on Patrick Lewis, who grew up on a Canadian farm, later moving to Toronto. Feeling lost in his own “home” he soon realizes that he is surrounded by foreign men and women making up the politically powerful, bridge and tunnel builders, a millionaire who has mysteriously disappeared, thieves, lovers and friends.

The characters in this story are passionately drawn out for the reader yet not overly analyzed. Through the different sections of the novel from “Little Seeds” to “Maritime theatre” Ondaatje takes us into the minds of the characters and lets us into their lives by the use of illusion. The way he describes the workers in the tunnels, the men building the bridge and the romance between two lovers lets the reader feel and live within the character in times of conflict and struggle.

As we follow Patrick Lewis from being a young boy and maturing into a man we discover real passion, romance and struggle which are occurring themes in this novel. The idea of romance revolves around the character Clara Dickens, who is described to be the “perfect women” and a “rare lover” in the section “The Searcher”. Ondaatje depicts the character of Clara Dickens to be very desirable and beautiful, but in the novel he describes her as a typical woman; however, with the use of language and imagery, he allows the readers to believe that she is really this perfect human being.

Ondaatje captures the raw emotions and struggling conflict with the use of poetry and visualization. This novel is beautifully written with the lack of linear structure which kept me interested and focused on the stories of his characters. Romance was not confined to just love scenes but really was portrayed within the passion and conflict between Patrick and the rest of the characters. I would highly recommend In the Skin of a Lion to anybody who wants to immerse themselves into history, poetry and romance. Dig yourself into raw emotion of those who devoted their time in building what Toronto is today.

Word count: 410

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