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on 24 April 2017
Could not put this down. What an incredible family. We feel we have lived Ondaatje's own mission to uncover their history in Sri Lanka.
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on 5 January 2015
Brilliant read especially if you are holidaying in Sri Lanka and staying in a colonial villa. But it is much more than that. Very thoughtful and written impeccably. Did it help the author reconcile himself with the father he lost? Hard to tell but a heart turning effort.some wonderful poetry as well. Thank you.
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on 20 November 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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on 10 September 2017
Extremely funny, especially for someone who knows, loves and lives in Sri Lanka as I am now.
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on 14 August 2014
I moved to Sri Lanka in March of this year and this was the first book I read about the island.

In beautiful and very distinctive prose Ondaatje pieces together reminiscences, stories, poems and legends to create a compelling portrait of Ceylon (as it was then). Much of the world he describes has passed into memory, but there are things I can recognise only too well: the sweltering heat ('stalking like an animal') of Colombo, the downpours, the barking dogs, the fans and red cement floors.

But ultimately Ceylon is only a backdrop, for this is a book about people. And what a cast of characters! From Francis Fonseka ('his tumescent heart notorious all over Colombo'), to former PM Sir John Kotelawala with his legendary breakfasts, to Ondaatje's grandmother Lalla (who could 'read thunder'). The character Ondaatje is searching for most, though, is Mervyn Ondaatje - an alcoholic and by all accounts a deeply troubled man. In its last few pages 'Running in the Family' becomes a moving tribute to the father Ondaatje never truly knew, and a realisation that 'all of our lives have been terribly shaped by what went on before us.'

This is a wonderful book.
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on 6 January 2016
It quickly becomes clear these memoirs have been spiced up. Some of the stories are indeed amusing and evocative. But others are boring. The style is idiosyncratic and an unknown writer would never have got this published.
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on 6 January 2015
Reading it in Sri Lanka on holiday, Ondaatje's memoirs still resonate, unlikely as some of them seem ( though quite possibly true). Wish the old photos could have been better reproduced. The structure of the book is so dislocated that only an already established writer could have got away with it and retained the readers' interest.
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on 13 October 2017
I also don't really understand why this book is so highly rated.

Most of the book takes the form of "sketches" of various events that have happened to the author, his family or friends, or portraits of the various characters. However most of them are completely unengaging or dull, and mostly too short to learn anything significant about the characters, places or history. It just comes across as a series of random, unconnected bits of writing.

The prose is interesting, which is a saving grace, and obviously plenty of people enjoy it, but I'm at a loss to see why.
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on 23 June 2013
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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on 24 December 2016
Entertaining, a little disjointed but then peoples' lives are. Valuable insight into life in Sri Lanka in the 20th century. I loved the story about the looting rebels demanding the author's airgun. Then they asked for a bat and ball to pay cricket in his garden.
While travelling through Kegalle I wondered aloud whether we could find Michael Ondaartje's old home. My friends were enthusiastic and we managed to find it and speak to the new owners, now third generation owners. relationships with the Colonials were often dismissive and snobbish but some Sihala-British co-operations were great achievements.
Though amusing and informative this is a sad story of a family slowly breaking up because of drink and gambling. It strength is in what Michael Ondaartje has not written, but you, as a reader know, how he and his brother managed to make new and successful lives in Canada.
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