September 23, 2008
Brief, crystalline linguistic frameworks around essential, sensual experiences characterize this unusually-structured novel by Michael Ondaatje. It reads like a train of thought from start to end, drifting across space and time as they evocative memories of its characters tug at it.
It’s a jolting ride sometimes, leaping unapologetically from Anna, Coop and Claire’s family on an idyllic, Stegner- or Steinbeck-esque California farm to a brutal, drug-addled gambling montage in Nevada, where everything seems to be done in deep blues and night. Then a long jaunt in southern France where everything is different but ever so slightly the same.
Ondaantje peels his words carefully from a layered world of experience and emotional intensity. He captures well the high, sharp emotions that shape our lives, the pivots of meaning at which everything changes, sometimes across generations. Experiences had by people divided from each other by reality or time, but connected by the barest filament of something. A senescing author in Gascony, an overconfident card shark.
Don’t wait for something to happen or make sense. It is not a logical progression, nor is there the satisfaction of resolution at the end. To some it will likely feel frustrating and ill-focused. But if you half-close your eyes and let your mind loosen its grip on causality, there are some golden, sun-calmed fields in Southern France and a hermit’s cabin in the hills near Petaluma that you might want to go on a quiet, literary vacation to.
|iction, novel, tbr, priority, bookclub, read, readin2008, france, california|
As always, see all of my reviews on LibraryThing.
Book #55 of 2008
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