Cody's Reviews > Divisadero

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
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's review
Nov 23, 2011

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bookshelves: the-west
Read from November 08 to 23, 2011

Like Running in the Family and The English Patient, Divisadero is a fragmented work in which damaged characters forge connections that, while tenuous, prove affirming and, in some cases, life-saving. And, seeing as this is Ondaatje, all of this is rendered in rich, beautiful, and often haunting prose. What makes Divisadero unique is that Ondaatje attempts to push all of these themes and techniques a bit farther, which, I must admit, mostly struck me as going a bit too far: the characters are more damaged, the relationships are more frail, and the narrative thread is more frayed. Thus, while I admire Ondaatje’s willingness to take a risk and extend and experiment with the very themes and techniques that make his previous works so stunning and meaningful, when I’m honest about this, I just don’t think it quite works here. My pal Ryan said it best:

“If Ondaatje were a more experimental novelist, in which the architecture of the book was foregrounded over his characters (see Cloud Atlas), this might work. Instead he wants to eat his cake and have it too: characters the reader emotionally identifies with but is fine abandoning every fifty pages for a new set of very similar characters. What we're left with is a clever hall of mirrors reflecting something beautiful, but incomplete.” (Full review here).

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