Serenity's Reviews > Divisadero

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
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's review
Jun 30, 2008

really liked it
Read in July, 2008

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 there is a tidy resolution to the collage of plots and characters. Although there is in fact resolution to the intertwining stories, the reader must decide it for herself, as in a poem.

The book takes on as one of its themes the very function that art performs for us as human beings, on a psychological level, and Ondaatje seems to be saying that we use it to protect ourselves from the life's harsher truths. As the voice of the narrator, Anna, tells us in the novel, "...this is where I learned that sometimes we enter art to to hide within it. It is where we can go to save ourselves, where a third-person voice protects us." It serves to "transcribe a substitution/ like the accidental folds of a scarf."

The characters in this book have much to hide from, and it is their lack of relief from the pain in their lives that resonates most deeply, in the end.
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11/15/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Mythic (new)

Mythic This is one of the best books I have read in quite a few years. It is lyrical and poetic experience, written by someone who can go into genius mode when he wants to and take us into an expanded universe.

If you read his book, "Anil's Ghost", you will see where the idea of art giving us sustenance, if not illumination, in darkness comes from. Anyone living in Shri Lanka or having a heritage from there will know of torture that has no limits and no reason for its existence. Anil's Ghost tells the story of a place where rights don't exist.

I can't imagine anyone saying they enjoyed "Anil's Ghost". Yet, like Schindler's List, it is an important book to read. Such books point out how events can suddenly change and make the reader thankful for each hour they can live in peace and beauty.

I plan to read "The English Patient" sometime when I can deal with it. After "Anil's Ghost" I am reading thriller and mysteries for summer/beach reading/ entertainment.

Mike Give me a poet who writes prose! Can't wait to read it.

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