A Fictitious take on our History

by capreviewroom

In the early nineteen hundreds, Canada was still a country developing through its youth. At this time, many immigrants were still coming to Canada and provided valuable labor in major infrastructure projects, and added to the difference of culture of the nation. These migrant workers were a large part of the force that erected massive projects such as the Prince Edward Viaduct as well as the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Facility of Toronto; however, few of these workers were ever noted for their contribution the development Canada. Michael Ondaatje set out to learn about these people, and in his book, “In the Skin of a Lion,” he portraits a fictional experience of them with his main character, Patrick Lewis.


We follow Patrick though a series of notable segments of his life presented as separate stories in separate “books,” as well as have few other characters be the main character of their own stories. Patrick is introduced as an adolescent living with his father at a logging camp, and through love, loss, thick, and thin, he develops into quite an interesting man, with some fascinating stories to tell. While “In the Skin of a Lion” is not a simple read, its uniqueness and charm developed through how it is written. Ondaatje took special care in researching for the novel, and included a few of his findings into the story, namely Nicholas temelcoff, as well as the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Small, a wealthy Ontario theatre owner, and others. 


Michael Ondaatje took an unorthodox approach of presenting his story, and was very successful with it. The book is able to truly grab the reader and keep them absorbed in its contents. The stories sometimes have time jumps, even of many years, but they enable Ondaatje to keep the book, as a whole, clean and concise. Overall it was skillfully written, and achieved its goal of letting us start to understand the unknown immigrants who began to build this nation; the varied character development, superb setting description, and complicated relationships of the book are all reasons to embark on the journey of reading this book.


– Harrison Lefeaux


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