Within The Skin by Sam Esfandiari

by capreviewroom

A journey is perhaps the best way to describe Michael Ondaatje’s In The Skin of a Lion, a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist, who manages to take his audience on a roller coaster ride surrounding the lives of Patrick Lewis, Nicholas Temelcoff, Alice Gull, and Clara Dickens, while also giving them a very good sense of the hardships of life as an immigrant in early 20th century Canada. Being an immigrant himself, it can easily be noted within the book just how accurately Ondaatje manages to describe the feeling of being an outsider and having to overcome things such as the language barrier.

The whole of the novel mainly takes the reader through the life of Patrick Lewis, a son of a dynamiter, who from the very beginning gives out the sense of being the type of character that’s naturally attracted to rebellion and stepping outside the boundaries set before him. Throughout the rest of the novel we are also introduced to several other protagonist that Ondaatje decides to give individual elements for, one being Nicholas Temelcoff which seems to represent the average immigrant, the next being Alice Gull, an unlucky nun with a scar on her face representing the liberator, and the final being Clara Dickens, representing the lover within the plot.

Ondaatje also delivers a well crafted image of landscape and history to the reader, giving well deserved credit to the unsung heroes that laboured to build them. It is clear that other than telling a story he wishes to educate the reader in the manner of Canadian history that is by many regarded as being the same as American history. It also becomes clear that the title itself is an allegory for those immigrants that dared to leave their homelands for a completely strange and different world to start a new life and create a better future for their children.

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