Archive for March 20th, 2012

March 20, 2012

Removing the Skin by Stuart A.

by capreviewroom

“In the Skin of a Lion”, written by the Sri-Lankan Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje is a fabulous collection of stories that centre around Toronto, Ontario during the 1920s and 1930s. The stories focus primarily on Patrick Lewis, who we see grow from a child living in the forests of rural Ontario to adulthood, ravaging around the streets of Toronto as a “searcher”. Patrick’s life is affected by numerous encounters with supporting characters including Clara, Alice, Nicholas, Carvaggio, and Hana. These characters all affect and mirror how Patrick changes and evolves at different stages of his life. Whether he is watching Finnish workers skate after dark on a rock-solid lake in his hometown, working as a young man on the Bloor Street Viaduct, or sharing erotic, passionate love with both Clara and Alice, we feel connected to Patrick and his life. This is a sign of astonishing writing and character development which Ondaatje so cleverly crafts in this handful of stories.

The collection is effortlessly sewn together by the literary mastery of Ondaatje. Ondaatje fuels sexual, upsetting, endearing, hilarious, and desperate moments with incredible understanding of his characters and flawless transitioning from story to story, year to year, and relationship to relationship.

Throughout the story, many people weave in and out of Patrick’s life. Although it requires the full attention of the reader, it is not difficult to follow if the reader is completely engaged and trusting of where Ondaatje will take them. The novel is extremely hard to put down. Ondaatje leaves the reader in suspense much of time, wondering what may await Patrick next.

The most beautiful element of the novel is that by the closing lines, the reader feels as if they have sincerely lived parts of Patrick’s life; the reader feels as though they have come to terms with all that has happened over the course of his existence. This is a component that makes “In the Skin of a Lion” unforgettable.

Ondaatje should be celebrated as one of the most astonishing writers of his time. It is very rare to read a novel that resonates with the reader long after they are done reading it such as the one that Ondaatje has seamlessly provided with “In the Skin of a Lion”.

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March 20, 2012

A City Without Boundaries

by capreviewroom

The subject of loss is not an uncommon theme in story-telling. The loss of love, loss of connections we’ve once had, and the loss of one’s self are both troubling and fascinating in the right context.  Few books are able to hold a reader’s undivided attention, but Nancy Lee’s Dead Girls is surely one of those books. The raw, explicit and detailed accounts of the numerous short stories contained within, beckon the reader forward to absorb the collection as a whole.

Where most readers pick up a book and are transported somewhere in the world they have only dreamed about, “Dead Girls” hits home with local readers, as Lee describes the views of the city from the top of the Harbour Centre in “Dead Girls” to “the point dimly lit by the glow of the Lion’s Gate Bridge” in “East”. Readers are given the opportunity to connect with the stories on a much more personal level. Simply knowing the area in which the stories take place in, add a sense of realism and insight to each story.

While each story in Dead Girls features different characters of varying ages, backgrounds, and life experience, the common theme throughout is loss, and the different ways in which people cope with loss. From divorce to a sisterly bond that cannot be broken, Lee does not tip toe around a subject. The intended adult audience is presented with work that stimulates similar memories of that of each character. Whether or not the reader can relate to the character is another story, “I wondered how much I had taken that day, the Dexedrine, the tigers, the Ativan, the Percocet” but Lee showcases each character in a way that we never find out why the character is the way they are, but the reader never second guesses the believability of the character.

From a pill-addicted nurse, to a night out with no direction, to a marriage torn apart from a missing daughter, Dead Girls is a collection with no set agenda. Each story does not build on its predecessor, yet each piece is such an important part of the overall collection. Dead Girls is a fantastic book, and one that begs multiple readings. Lee’s uninhibited views of dealing with loss and the darker side of the city of Vancouver are captivating and provocative. Dead Girls will leave you thinking long after you put down the book.

Liam Scott-Curr