RATING: 4 STARS
(Review Not on Blog)
Michael Ondaatje is one of my favourite writers, even though my rating on his books may not reflect that. He is also an author I don't often recommend to other readers, especially non, new or BOTM (Book of the Month) readers. Ondaatje is a poet in all his writing. I have read his poems, novels and now nonfiction and all of them are so beautifully written. However, he is not always easy to comprehend. He shows instead of tells, and uses imagery that leaves you thinking about a sentence for days. Every sentence I read I want to own it. It takes me a while to read his books as I not only have to play with the words, I need to decipher all that he is trying to convey. If you want to know about Michael Ondaatje read wikipedia, but if you want to know Ondaatje through Ondaatje lens this is the book for you. This is fact mixed with a bit of fiction. Fiction as in imagery. This is one I will be picking up a few times to really understand it all. There may be updates to this review at a later date.
A superb biographical memoir from the author of The English Patient. Ondaatje’s return to his native Ceylon to meet some of the wildly eccentric relatives who stood in his memory “like frozen opera”.
A beautiful and poignant tale of the past and present of the Ondaatje family and the island of Ceylon. This short and winding tale makes you want to breath his muggy air and go back in time.
My favorite Ondaatje book and an excellent read.
1) Pluses: His family story, the family get togethers in the big old house, reminiscing about the past characters and their wacky stories, some of the description of surroundings.
2) Minuses: His editors must have pulled their hairs out trying to put this book together in a semi-coherent manner! Feels to me like he
a) wrote his family story
b) wrote almost artificially waxy and overkill descriptions of the surrounding scents; sometimes with hanging or incomplete sentences.
c) threw in some biographical/historical bits from other explorers who visited the region
d) then sprinkled poetry on top!
Ok, that's like chocolate cake made with potatoes and topped with whipped ketchup with a side of wilted flowers - blech! Good enough ingredients separately - but together; what the heck!
3) Would have been nice to have: a bit more development of characters, an illustrated family tree to refer back to and a remotely chronological progression of events. Some characters like Lalla - who got washed away in the flood, were very well developed colorful characters. But it was hard to keep track of who was whose relative, grandmother, aunt, cousin etc - maybe because I didn't pay enough attention; not sure. Also no concept of time or space passing - maybe since it's all historical stories time no longer matters, but being a linear mind person, some context of progression of events would have been nice. Otherwise, I don't even need to finish the book (I got through 3/4ths)- it doesn't seem to be leading up to a climactic or ironic/twist of events ending anyway.
Net-net: nice read, but honestly I wouldn't have persevered and read through most of the book had it not been for feeling accountable to the book club group. Still I appreciate that the group opened me up to a part of the world that I was not familiar with, and to give me the exposure to an author that is obviously very accomplished, but that I was not familiar enough with.
Beautifully written, but found it hard to determine the story itself - seemed random at times.
"I recommend Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family. It is, quite simply, a beautiful book. Sad, funny, lush, deliciously evocative. Somewhere between fiction and autobiography, it tells the story of Ondaatje’s colonial family in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, during the long, languid days and humid nights of the Empire. The book is Ondaatje’s exploration of his own identity, born of this land but not part of it, and of the father he knew but did not know."
The Book I Must Read This Summer
Globe and Mail June 11 2011
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