Divisadero
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Divisadero

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  7,399 ratings  ·  1,255 reviews
From the celebrated author of The English Patient and Anil's Ghost comes a remarkable, intimate novel of intersecting lives that ranges across continents and time. In the 1970s in Northern California a father and his teenage daughters, Anna and Claire, work their farm with the help of Coop, an enigmatic young man who makes his home with them. Theirs is a makeshift family,...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by Vintage (first published 2007)
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Brad
Divisadero is not a story about the things that happened; it is a story about the things that were felt, and there is no living author better at telling a tale of feelings than Michael Ondaatje.

Ondaatje's prose is poetry, and for me, his poetry is lyrically sublime, in the romantic sense of the word. I am awed by what he does, and I long to do it in my own prose.

I don't care whether Anna and Coop and Claire ever find each other through the divisions of solitude they've embraced, and I don't fee...more
Mark
This book is full of the wisdom of a writer who is both a poet and a novelist. Divisadero: the divisions between our lives and the lives of others, and even between our most secret lives inside of us too secret to admit to ourselves. Divisadero: the connections between the divisions that cause us to yearn for the comfort of togetherness, of intimacy. On a palimpsest of a novel painted over by centuries of division and that longing for togetherness, Ondaatje brushes words that will stay with me f...more
Emily
For those who have not read an Ondaatje book before, "Divisadero" may not be a good first start. A newer reader may be expecting a plot that rises and crashes as much as the one developed in "The English Patient," which Ondaatje became known best for after the success of the film version. (And even if you haven't watched the movie 10 times over like some of us, you get it: War, lust, affair, secrets, heartbreak, the end.)

But for those who have eaten, lived and breathed his words relentlessly sin...more
Trish
Dec 26, 2008 Trish rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Trish by: Tash
Shelves: fiction, 2008-read
God I did not like this book. Really, really did not like it. I read all the 4 and 5 star reviews, I get what people are saying, and I'm just not there. Why get us interested in characters and then abandon them? and why spend time telling us boring things about them (like a whole paragraph describing how she planted seeds in the field by scattering them instead of burying them) and then we find out about major dramatic events only in one passing sentence told as a part of someone else's narrativ...more
Ryan Chapman
This might bear more fruit on a second reading, but as it is right now I would consider this a lesser Ondaatje than the brilliance displayed in Anil's Ghost and Booker Prize winner The English Patient. The first two-thirds of the text spans the young lives of a mixed family in Northern California and Nevada--the trio of sisters Anna and Claire with adopted farmhand (and John Grady Cole archetype) Coop. There's a predictable/inevitable running through of paradise attained and lost for this fami...more
Serenity
I just finished reading this book. I found it beautiful, haunting, and while at first I was dissatisfied with the loose and ultimately unresolved nature of the novel, I later decided to accept it and consequently appreciated it much more. Ondaatje is a poet as well as a novelist, and he lets poetry infuse his fiction richly. In this work, I feel that he has taken it one step further and stripped the events in the book to their essence, as in a poem. Read in that way, it no longer matters whether...more
Miriam
Oh my god. Every once in a while and this happens like maybe once a year, I find, you read a book that is just the RIGHT BOOK at the right time. And this is it. Amazing. Gorgeous. It's hard to even say. Because there is also a roughness to it, to the characters that is almost gripping. That and, ta-dah it is so intricately structured. I love structures that I want to think about. And this is one. I want to just turn it over and read it again and again.

It also makes me want to go back and read Th...more
David
Jul 30, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Catherine
There is not much I can write about Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero without echoing what all the other reviewers have already written: Ondaatje is a craftsman. His writing reveals decades of self-scrutiny, of each year wanting to say more with fewer words.

Divisadero is about love and the loss thereof. Love falls victim to the jealous wrath of a protective father, to drug addiction, to the minor details of our daily lives, and the greater mystery of the entropy of desire:

Lucien and his future wife...more
Mark
Maybe 4 +half—Ondaatje’s novels always seem somehow flawed, because they’re not like any other author’s novels. They leave me a little confused and not a little mystified—but a confusion stemming from awe and wonder. Ondaatje’s novels are poems—or, rather, collections of poems in prose of varied pace and pitch—and they can’t be read by the ‘normal’ rules of novel-reading. So, to call “Divisadero” a strange and beautiful concoction is just to say it’s a Michael Ondaatje novel. I say all this beca...more
John
Dec 03, 2013 John rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone French
A very disappointing read. A book that started off with a bang and then just faded in the middle. This fairly recent book was available for sale at the inflated price of $30 in Singapore bookshops so when it popped up in the American Club Library, I figured it was a smart, cost-efficient move. It was since buying the book would have been a waste.
The man can write. His account of a tragic incidents in the lives of two young girls and an orphaned hired hand on a northern California farm creates su...more
Teresa
To explain why I liked this book so much would be to give too much of its pleasures away. I will say, though, that the writing is beautiful and seems effortless. And that its themes are my favorites: memory, loss, connections that are made (but are too soon gone) and connections that are missed (in more than one sense of that word), never to be forgotten and seen everywhere.
Laura Byrnes
Beautifully written, and frustratingly unfulfilling...but I think that may be the author's point. The three storylines (filled with a multitude of engrossing characters) are divided by time and place but are supposed to intersect with one another symbolically, spiritually and metaphorically. Sound confusing? It is. it is also hard to articulate a cold hard opinion of this book; to do so lessens the effect of the book. Ondaatje's style is so lyrical, I'd find myself stopping and wanting to write...more
Janice
Nov 15, 2008 Janice rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I very much enjoyed this book. But it was a little confusing toward the end. so I think it may need a second read. I came away with beautiful imagery of how people, specifically all the main characters fragment themselves. I think that the format of the book is also a story/metaphor of this fragmentation.

I'm not saying that any of his other books has straight forward, linear, single protagonist narration, but this literally felt like the narration was shattering towards the end into more and mo...more
Charlaralotte
Well...When you've already written "The English Patient," it's hard to do much better. Unfortunately, it also seems to mean you don't get good editorial advice anymore.

This book has the makings of two good, separate books that would be tied together by a slim plot connection. As it is now, the two story lines are poorly integrated & feel forced.

I found the Cooper story dull, if only because I'm tired of Texas Hold 'Em poker & Las Vegas & America in general.

The Lucien story, on the ot...more
Pat
This book is beautifully written. It is three disconnected stories in a mosaic. Each beautiful and complete in itself. The stories are linked to each other through a common character. I loved all the characters and was sad to leave them behind as the book moved on to the next story. In this way, it seemed to me to be a more of a collection of short stories sharing characters (similar to Franny and Zooey) than a novel.

Alex Nye
Again, read this in tall narrow house in Nerja, Spain, overlooking Andalucean mountains. Had it on my table to read for months, and didn't get round to it. What I really loved about this book was the fact that Ondaatje is brave enough to let his fiction/story/narrative take him where he pleases. He doesn't feel constrained by some imaginary editor sitting on his shoulder saying critically 'you can't do that' or 'the publisher won't like that.' The beginning of the book opens with a painful love...more
Sara
Aug 07, 2007 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sandy
Another outstanding offering from one of my favorite authors. The narrative travels back and forth in time, forging links between the past and the present. Ondaatje gives clues in the content as to the critical themes. "All over the world there must be people like us. . .wounded in some way by falling in love--seemingly the most natural of acts." "We live permananetly in the reoccurence of our own stories, whatever story we tell." ". . .what is most untrustowrthy about our natures and self-worth...more
b borkent
as usual Ondaatje incorporates some beautiful imagery and there are some really outstanding sections of this book. However, on the whole, a disjointed piece with a whole lot of exposition and background description, but no sense of resolution to 2 out of 3 parts of the story. The good part, near the end, is just a back story about a character that is already dead and has almost nothing to do with the rest of the book at all. One of the very main characters is conveniently beaten to crap and has...more
Heather
I evidently haven't read a Work of Literature for a while. I want to talk about this book with someone who read it!! There was much I loved about each fragment of the story, but only the last part of the novel seemed "complete." I kept waiting to return to the original three characters, and was disappointed. I know this was deliberate on the author's part, but I want to figure out why!!!
Fatema Alammar
لا تبدأ قراءة مايكل أونداتجي باختيار رؤى الانقسام
المريض الانجليزي ستكون البداية المثالية.
العنوان غير جاذب، في الأصل
Divisadero
له رقّة الموسيقى. لكن العنوان المترجم؟ لم أكن لأختاره من غير وجود اسم الكاتب الفخم مايكل أونداتجي. قرأت (المريض الانجليزي) بانبهار، وكانت فرصة جيّدة أن أبدأ هذا الكتاب الآخر. أعتقد أن نثر أونداتجي أَسرني إلى منطقته. القراءة له ليست تجربة سهلة، السرد لا يسير في زمن خطي واحد. عدة قصص تُحكى وتنسج بطول الكتاب، وهناك الحرص على إثراء السرد بالمعلومات. أحدهم قال (لا يمكن لأوندا...more
Carlos
This one is heavy, in the best sense of the word. Not like a curse, but more like a blanket. Or a few inches of (surprise!) just-fallen snow.

I absolutely loved it. He is a deft planner or editor or manipulator of storyline and chronology and plot and character. He takes my favorite characters away just before I have a chance to say goodbye, and reels me in with new stories and new people to get to know while I realize and come to accept that I won't see the old ones anymore.

I was not a huge fan...more
Eric
It appears as if the last novel I'll complete this year has turned out to be the best one of the year. It used to be that my life would stop with the appearance of a new Kundera novel, but now that distinction belongs to Ondaatje. Divisadero is like another English Patient, but I mean this in the best sense: it's not a replica of that earlier novel, but a continuation and enlargement of its central themes (nomadism, personal and historical wounds, blurred boundaries between past and present and...more
Mark
Divisadero, as its clunky Spanish title unintentionally implies, will divide your opinion at the same time it hovers in the memory long after you finish. Magnificent as well as overblown; embarrassing, yet also intense and ultimately moving; filled with moments that belong in a Mills & Boon romance counter-pointed by mind-blowing feats of linguistic energy and narrative multiplication.

It's a wonder someone can be this great and so lushly bad all at once. What you can't fault Michael Ondaatj...more
Carl Brush
I was well into Divisadero, Michael Ondaatje’s very fine latest work, thinking about how appropriate the title was, remembering that Divisadero (Sp. for “divided”) Street in San Francisco once was a major dividing line in the city but unable to remember what it separated. I’d have to look it up, I thought, to write this blog. Then Ondaatje did it for me and added another dimension as well. The street was the border between the city and the fields of the presidio, between the civilians and the so...more
Duc
This book could have been two books. I felt that it was rushed to the end a bit. The pace picked up and became less poetic when it should have been more poetic as the later part of the book concentrates on Lucien the poet.
I was not disappointed. After The English Patient and In the Skin of the Lion, I read Anil's Ghost. That book wasn't as poetic. Divisadero is poetic but also high in concept without the accoutrement that goes with high conception. It begins with understanding the title of the n...more
Noah
I recently had the chance to see Ondaatje live in conversation with Michael Chabon in San Francisco, and as a result became determined to read more of Ondaatje's work. The only other work by Ondaatje I had read was Running in the Family, which I greatly enjoyed. Also, having gained insight into Ondaatje's writing process through his conversation with Chabon, I became more and more determined to expand my Ondaatje reading.

I chose Divisadero as an entry point because it a) featured the Bay Area,...more
Nicola
Several years ago, I saw Ondaatje give a reading from this book in Portland. As always, it's fascinating and, in his case, soothing to hear the author's reading of his own words. But even more exciting was the afterward when Ondaatje fielded questions. Like in his marvelous book of conversations between him and the film editor Walter Murch, he free associates, letting his experience and knowledge and reading and randomness pour through him, flowing and morphing. It was marvelous to witness.

Ondaa...more
Stacie
Let me start by saying I love Ondaatje - I love his prose, which often reads like poetry. I love his storytelling - the way he makes you see and really care about the characters and the setting and the story.

I really, really liked the beginning, like the first 180-ish pages. I loved following the stories of Anna, Claire and Coop (and of course, it was neat to have him writing about places and things I know so well)...I really wanted to know more about them, read more about them, but he went off...more
Keith
I had to sit with this book for a while before writing a review. At first while I loved the writing, I was upset that so many plot lines were just dropped and so many characters left without a full development.

But as I sat with Ondaatje's work, I realized that was just part of the point. This is a novel that is less about a storyline and actually all about the characters themselves, regardless if they are in the present or the past. The profundity in this delicate prose is that often our lives...more
Juanita Rice
I give this four stars for general literary excellence, but I could also have given three stars. If you wish to know why, read on.

Compelling; literate and meta-literate; elegant and sensuous; evocative and inventive. A good smooth read (swift but rich. Recognizably Ondaatje if you've read other novels of his: meticulously researched pieces of arcane history are linked by characters whose lives cross in varied ways, travels, and histories. There is no one main character; instead, three characters...more
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He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit...more
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“For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.” 71 likes
“...sometimes we enter art to hide within it. It is where we can go to save ourselves, where a third-person voice protects us.” 66 likes
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