Top critical review
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Intense and beautiful, but fragmented
on 11 February 2010
I can understand how this book has made a deep impression on some people, and I think, in parts, it had the same effect on me. It is very emotional and sometimes painfully intimate in its closeness to Bolden as he goes mad. Sometimes the prose is perfectly accurate, and places you right in the middle of the steamy New Orleans summer along with the lost souls trying to make a life there. His description of the life dictated by hardship, heat, booze, whores and jazz is colourful and buzzing, accentuated by the unorthodox methods of writing that Ondaatje uses throughout the book.
But it is just those unorthodox methods which bothered me. Most of the time it worked beautifully, and made for a atmospheric and beautiful book. But sometimes it went a bit too far for me, with the sudden changes in narration, the chaos and the elaborate trains of thought veering away from the present moment. I found this a little too experimental and disjointed, distracting from the otherwise passionate and intense story.