Top critical review
A Nation's Conflict Told Through a Skeleton
on 29 June 2017
This has the makings of a good story, as Ondaatje evokes Sri Lanka's bloody recent past and its "scarring psychosis", while celebrating the nation's enduring cultural treasures. Here, a skeleton comes to represent a record of official atrocity, and its journey stands for the attempt to unearth truth, quite literally, from official attempts to bury it. Later on, the eyes of a statue look to a horizon of hope beyond the immediate destruction.
Meanwhile, universal ideas are inferred beyond this theatre of conflict, such as: "the main purpose of war had become war". Or "Sometimes law is on the side of power, not truth."
But I found the frequent leaps back and forward in time to be overdone and off-putting. So too are the essays inserted into the mouths of Ondaatje's characters, by way of conversation, in a way that could not be natural speech. Also, at times, he fails to identify his speakers, meaning I had to re-read some of the conversations to figure out who was talking.
Worth a read, perhaps, but there's room for improvement.