Customer Reviews


17 Reviews
5 star:
 (10)
4 star:
 (2)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic ode to labour and love
I read 'The English Patient' some years ago and enjoyed it immensely, prompting me to buy this earlier work. Regrettably, I buy more books than I get around to reading (I can't be the only culprit...), but I am so, so pleased that I've finally got around to reading this wonderful book...
In the Skin of a Lion is set in Canada, moving between rural Ontario and...
Published on 4 Mar 2005 by gavinrob2001

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book for intellectuals
This book has marvellous moments but the intervening story seemed to lack a coherent story line. It is, however beautifully written.
Published 13 months ago by Caroline Gardner


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic ode to labour and love, 4 Mar 2005
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
I read 'The English Patient' some years ago and enjoyed it immensely, prompting me to buy this earlier work. Regrettably, I buy more books than I get around to reading (I can't be the only culprit...), but I am so, so pleased that I've finally got around to reading this wonderful book...
In the Skin of a Lion is set in Canada, moving between rural Ontario and Toronto, and primarily charts the life of Patrick Lewis from the turn of the twentieth century to the late 1930s. However, the novel is not as structurally straight-forward as this suggests, as some of the chapters focus heavily on two of the three other main male characters. Nonetheless, Ondaatje hints within the novel that there is a structure, and indeed there is order and interconnectedness between the stories of these three mens' lives.
Ondaatje employs strong, physical descriptive language to honour the labours, particularly of migrant groups such as Macedonians, that shaped modern Canada - logging; dynamiting; cattle-herding; bridge-building and dam construction: the realistic and evocative writing on this range of human endeavours must have required a lot of research.
The novel also includes three intriguing, strong-willed female characters: radio actress and love of Patrick's life (despite many formidable hurdles) Clara Dickens; her best friend, Alice Gull, and Alice's daughter, Hana. Beautifully-crafted, poetic language describes the relationships that evolve over the years, and both the stories and language are a genuine delight for the reader to savour.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better than the English Patient, 19 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
This is the prequel to the rather more famous The English Patient, however despite the latter's success In the Skin of the Lion is the better book. It is based in Canada, when the country was still young and growing using as fuel the poor and migrants. This has to be close to one of the best I have ever read, indeed, I cannot say that I have enjoyed another more. The writing itself is exquisite, Ondaatje writes prose as if it were poetry (he is also an accomplished poet) - the beauty in the language itself is reason enough to enjoy it. But it is the book's overwhelming sense of humanity that makes this book what it is. This book is about people, their stories, their tragedies and their ability to love. It envelops you in its slightly dreamy, warm human haze while you read it and long after you've finished.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book ever written?, 5 Mar 2000
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
Michael Ondaatje (best known for The English Patient) writes a faultless novel looking at ordinary people in a most extraordinary way. The myriad of characters in this novel bring together many aspects of human nature and in doing so show one shared characteristic, survival. They all all survive in one way or another, whether it be because of the birth of a child or because they are caught whilst falling from a bridge the (ordinary?) humans in this book survive. It is a book about learning, about dreaming and ultimately about life. Ondaatje brings all these aspects of human nature together bound in exquisite language and genuine feeling. Is this the best book ever written? I believe so.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prose that flows and that feeds, 24 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
Upton Sinclair met Willian Saroyan at the corner of Bloor and Yonge and wrote this novel. A deep and intimate feeling of the smell, look and feel of being human in a human world of work and love and hopes and fears.
A great evocation of how love works physically, the accidents of how people meet and then the intimacy of their behaviour - one character comments that young people "act like wildlife" - spot on. The scenes of immigrant life and working and building and politics and city planning and prison build a mosaic of early 20th century Toronto from the stories of a handful of people. One feels the intensity of the cold of an ontario countryside winter. It rings true almost everywhere and the language is like syrup -flowing and golden and refracting. It's almost too nourishing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book for intellectuals, 16 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
This book has marvellous moments but the intervening story seemed to lack a coherent story line. It is, however beautifully written.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, 19 Feb 2013
By 
Anne Farmer (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
I find this author difficult as I am never sure what the point of the stories are and this book was the same. I had hooped to read about the development and growth of Toronto but feel that I am really none the wiser.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever, 7 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
This is the less famous but better relation to the English Patient, which achieved much of its status from being made into a well known film. This is Ondaatje's previous novel, a prequel of sorts, and is a beautifully written, evocative and cleverly structured slice of genius. At times it is like reading poetry and i would recommend this book to anyone who likes really beautifully written fiction with clever structure and great narrative story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Trust me, this will take time..., 28 Jun 2009
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
... but there is order here, very faint, very human." This should be the first sentence of every novel, the narrator reflects midway in Michael Ondaatje extraordinary novel. And he makes taking the time more than worthwhile. Actual short news items are creatively woven into a tapestry of life in and around Toronto during the early decades of the last century. Real or realistic characters, essential for the construction of the city at the time are at the centre of the story: primarily immigrant workers from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds. Ondaatje makes them the heroes of this powerful and captivating novel, with a few established Canadians added into the mix and set against the social and political context of the time. "It is a novel about the wearing and the removal of masks; the shedding of skin, the transformations and translations of identity." Ondaatje stated in an interview, hinting at the novel's title, taken from the ancient Sumerian Epic, Gilgamesh.

A nun falls off a bridge under construction, a millionaire theatre mogul disappears, neither person to be traced or washed up somewhere... "Official histories, news stories surround us daily, but the events of art reach us too late, travel languorously like messages in a bottle." Yet in his novel, the author spins a possible continuation of each news story, bringing the events to life, giving the characters an alternative reality, in which their lives are closely connected to other, imagined, characters.

Patrick Lewis is the central figure in the novel, the linking element of what initially may appear as disconnected stories. With his father he lives on a farm and learns his father's skill as a logging dynamiter. One night, he watches a group of loggers, Finns, dancing on the frozen river, burning cattails in hand. "...Skating the river at night, each of them moving like a wedge into the blackness magically revealing the grey bushes of the shore, HIS shore, HIS river." [emphasis in the text in italics] He is too uncertain of himself to join them despite being transfixed by the beauty and grace of it. "So at this stage in his life, his mind raced ahead of his body." As he grows up and moves around the different lowly jobs open to him, he is increasingly drawn to the communities his mates come from. As one of the few "locals" and English speaking characters, he realizes that the others are not the outsiders, rather he is. He has become the observer and a sideline to events and stories. "His own life was no longer a single story, but part of a mural, which was a falling together of accomplices. Patrick saw a wondrous night web - all of these fragments of a human order, something ungoverned by the family he was born into or the headlines of the day."

One of Patrick's many jobs is that of a "seeker" a private investigater of sorts, who is tasked with finding the whereabouts of Ambrose Small, the theatre mogul. What starts as a job grows into a quest and later obsession, less related to Small as time goes by as to Clara, the gorgeous and mysterious lover. Patrick's emotional maturity will be tested more than once.

Ondaatje is a poet at heart. He is well known for his lyrical strength in evoking emotions and describing intimate relationships and in this novel, these form an essential element in his protagonist's life. In addition, though, whether evoking the atmosphere of the loggers dance on the ice or the depicting the construction workers labouring on the bridge, the leather dyers at the abattoir, he finds a language that adds vivid imagery and poetry to the hardest human conditions. Few authors would have the power of words to bring beauty to the description of the leather dyers, covered in yellow, blue or green dyes, standing together like a living sculpture... Their dangerous work, like that of the bridge construction workers or the dynamiter and others is conveyed with understanding, empathy for the men while at the same time reflecting the growing anger against those in control: those who take "collateral" damage for granted and pass on to the next party and drink. The social tensions in the society of the day are one of the underlying threads of the novel, integrated subtly as an integral part of the immigrants' surroundings and realities. Similar to Divisadero, the various narrative strings are pulled together at the end, but it is helpful to re-read the beginning to close the ellipse completely. A remarkable novel of timeless power [Friederike Knabe]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most beautiful book I have read, 21 April 2012
By 
George Marshall (Wells, Somerset Great Britain) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
Simply the best book I have ever read. Every time I convince a friend to read it I feel that I have made the world a better place by sharing the sublime, unpretentious, poetic beauty of this extraordinary book. The soft, tender and gently melancholic tone of the novel will stay with you long after the beautiful images have faded.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars book group selection vindicated, 18 Aug 2010
This review is from: In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) (Paperback)
I chose this book for my book group after I read a newspaper review of an Ondaatje novel about civil engineering set in Canada. Might not sound promising, and things could have got worse when I recommended the English Patient to my 18 year old daughter for holiday reading. It sounded like Ondaatje was heading for the bad sex award when he described his likening of a man's bodily part to a seahorse....But don't switch off! In the Skin of a Lion is a wonderful book. He juggles the stories of a number of characters all set in and around Toronto in the early 20th century. Some may take issue with the poetics and the jumps from character to character but to me Ondaatje is constantly testing himself to the limit and it works. It is a wonderful account of the Canadian landscape, both rural and urban, of the early immigrant communities in North America and the race literally to build a new world at sometimes terrible cost. Read it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books)
In the Skin of a Lion (Picador Books) by Michael Ondaatje (Paperback - 7 Feb 2003)
6.29
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews