Colourful Images Engraved for a Life Time

by capreviewroom

Michael Ondaatje is a Canadian novelist and poet.  Ondaatje wrote In the Skin of a Lion in 1987. He spent a portion of his life in Toronto, which gave him inspiration to write this novel. The novel is set in Toronto in the 1920’s and the 1930s. It is not only filled with the history of Toronto but it is also shimmering with romance and demonstrates what it was like to be an immigrant and a worker during the early 1900s. Ondaatje was an immigrant himself coming from Sri Lanka to Canada in 1962. Since Ondaatje was an immigrant himself he is able to make a connection with the immigrants in this wonderfully written novel of his.

The novel is divided into 3 sections and deals with mainly the life of Patrick Lewis. Patrick Lewis starts his life out on a farm. He grows up not knowing who he is or what he wants and he learns valuable life lessons as he watches what his greatest role model (his father) does.  At age 21, Patrick decides to leave his childhood and see what Toronto has to offer him.

Patrick is the main character; however his is definitely not the only character. All the characters are introduced at different parts of the novel.  Some stay and some go. Some appear in the start and then don’t pop out until the end again. No matter how they are introduced or where they are introduced, Ondaatje portrays each and every one of them in a way that readers can almost relate to. As the story moves on, readers are sometimes left wondering about where some of the characters are; just waiting for them to pop up again.

Ondaatje writes this novel so beautifully; I didn’t want to put it down. Since there are no real chapters and the book is divided into 3 parts with characters popping in and out, it can be a little confusing; making you read certain parts over and over again. The characters and events that take place are all described with colourful images that will forever be engraved into your memory.  After reading this book I feel as though I know more about Canadian history. This book has also left me wanting to read more of Ondaatje’s published work.

By: Katie Winterbottom


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