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Running in the Family [Paperback]

Michael Ondaatje
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

17 Aug 2009
'During certain hours, at certain years in our lives, we see ourselves as remnants from the earlier generations that were destroyed...I think all of our lives have been terribly shaped by what went on before us.' Twenty-five years after leaving his native Sri Lanka for the cool winters of Ontario, a chaotic dream of tropical heat and barking dogs pushes Michael Ondaatje to travel back home and revisit a childhood and a family he never fully understood. Along with his siblings and children, Ondaatje gathers rumours, anecdotes, poems, records and memories to piece together this fragmented portrayal of his family's past, his father's destructive alcoholism and the colourful stories and secrets of ancestors both disgraced and adored throughout centuries of Sri Lankan society. In an exotic, evocative portrait of the heat, wildlife, sounds and silences of the Sri Lankan landscape, Ondaatje combines vivid recreations of a privileged, eccentric older generation with a deeply personal reconciliatory journey in which he explores his own ghosts, and how his family's extraordinary history continues to influence his life.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (17 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408801450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408801451
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Michael Ondaatje is here at his agile and evocative best. His latest book is an account of an exotic and outrageous family, a true story with all of the most exciting qualities of fiction. Brightly coloured, sweet and painful, bloody-minded and otherworldly, it achieves the status of legend' Margaret Atwood 'An outstandingly evocative, semi-autobiographic account of a journey back to the beginning, to Ceylon where Ondaatje was born into a privileged group of mixed Dutch, Tamil and Sinhalese origins. Created from asides, snapshots, poems, glimpses in every way unorthodox and incomplete, it falls magically on the page with all the grace of a billowing, seamless dress. Like all classic writing the motion of this book lingers on, like the movement of a boat, long after the last pages' New Statesman 'A beautiful, luscious book. Michael Ondaatje has depicted his extraordinary family, who delighted in masks and costumes and love affairs that "rainbowed over marriages" in the kind of language that makes glory of their lives. He has gone on a poet's journey to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and the reader who travels with him enters a truly magical world' Maxine Hong Kingston 'Eloquent, oblique, witty, full of light and feeling .Ondaatje's knowledge of the fragility and luck of life is very clear. So, too, is the grace and originality of his prose' New Yorker

About the Author

Michael Ondaatje is the author of five novels, a memoir, a non-fiction book on film and several books of poetry. His novel The English Patient won the Booker Prize; another of his novels, Anil's Ghost, won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize and the Prix Medicis. His most recent book, Divisadero, won the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction 2007. Born in Sri Lanka, he now lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Running in the Family 16 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read the book whilst in Sri Lanka. It provided a very atmospheric explanation to the Dutch influence on the island.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing 20 Nov 2013
Michael Ondaatje writes an amusing story about his family and the plethora of gamblers and boozers. The racecourse bits are very funny and I should think that there is nothing Mr. Ondaatje doesn't know about horses!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read from an ex-Colonial child! 23 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having lived in Ceylon as a child, I found this book to be charming and fascinating as it filled in some of the background for me.
There was a definite prejudice from the Colonial administrators towards the native peoples which as a child one did not know about so this lovely book opened my eyes to a reality that I had not known. I liked it very much, as I do all of Michael Ondaatje's books.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Short, rather sad 31 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is about the author's time in Sri Lanka and full of stories of his family's experiences there. It is interesting as an insight to how the rich lived in the early 1900's in Sri Lanka and how in some cases they squandered their wealth. Today, we would call such people 'wasters', but it was somewhat poignant and sad.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique family history 15 Mar 2014
By Sandra Forbes - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A model of its genre. Original, stylish, witty, evocative writing about a time and society now entirely (?) lost. Often laugh-aloud funny, while serious in general intent. Illuminating about life in Sri Lanka in the early 20th century, burgher society in particular. Read it anyway, but if you visit Sri Lanka, don't fail to take the Ondaatje family as travelling companions.
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful blend of memoir and poetry 21 April 2013
By Kathleen Hackett - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Michael Ondaatje's poetic memoir populated with the larger than life characters of his family make this book a delight. Highly recommended especially if you are planning to travel to Sri Lanka.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable 28 Jun 2012
By Carrom - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A humorous and fascinating account of a family's life in Sri Lanka in the 1930's. Brought to life the country and aspects of life there which one would not have expected. Really enjoyed it.
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