Title: In The Skin Of A Lion
Author: Micheal Ondaatje
Publisher: Penguin Books
Mixing the real geography of Toronto with the personal mythologies of a series of surreal characters, “In The Skin Of A Lion” is an interwoven series of tales gathered roughly around the main character, Patrick Lewis. The son of a dynamite expert, Patrick leaves the Ontario farm of his birth to move to Toronto; there he takes part in the physical and spiritual creation of the city.
I have read this book twice. I wasn’t particulalry moved the first time I read it, but everyone I know loves the book so much I though I would give it a second chance.
Not liking this book and being a resident of Toronto (the novel’s primary setting) is fairly close to sacrilege, even more so when the Dean of your former faculty is mentioned in the acknowledgements.
“In The Skin Of A Lion” is certainly a beautiful piece of writing, reading it feels like watching a silent film; scenes are sculpted rather than described. Dialogue is almost non-existent, and when present seems to reveal little.
Though beautiful to read, the story is somehow unfulfilling. The love story seems incomplete; it is too much a fairytale. The story touches on the class struggle between those who envision the city and those who physically create it, but fails to provide any real insight.
One theme that does become apparent is how much our lives are defined by the people who surround us, and how we are shaped by our interactions with people.
This book is for those who enjoy reading for reading’s sake; it is filled with touching moments and humorous anecdotes, but on the whole feels incomplete. This is clearly the work of a poet, a collection of images rather than a complete novel.