Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
Filed under: Book Reviews,Goveror General's Literary Award — Ibis at 6:53 pm on Thursday, March 20, 2008

From the dust jacket:
“In the 1970s in northern California, near Gold Rush country, a father and his teenage daughters, Anna and Claire, work their farm with the help of Coop, an enigmatic young man who makes his home with them. Theirs is a makeshift family, until it is riven by an incident of violence — of both hand and heart — that sets fire to the rest of their lives.

Divisadero takes us from the city of San Francisco to the raucous backrooms of Nevada’s casinos, and eventually to the landscape of south central France. It is here, outside a small rural village, that Anna becomes immersed in the life and the world of a writer from an earlier time — Lucien Segura. His compelling story, which has its beginnings at the turn of the century, circles around “the raw truth” of Anna’s own life, the one she’s left behind but can never truly leave. And as the narrative moves back and forth in time and place, we discover each of the characters managing to find some foothold in a present rough-hewn from the past.”

Other useful links:
the not-so-useful Wikipedia article on Divisadero
the Wikipedia article on Michael Ondaatje

My thoughts:
I was looking forward to reading this because it was my first Ondaatje book. I also thought the sound of the title was intriguing – a kind of combination of division and desidero (that’s “I desire” in Latin). Only later did I discover that is is the name of a street in San Francisco.

It’s been a while since I finished this book (I’m catching up, I promise!) so my memory of it is a little fragmented. In fact, this book is itself fragmented: various points of view, two completely different sets of characters, unresolved conflicts… All of which left me unsatisfied. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters of the first story, and the whole ‘professional gambler’ thing didn’t grab me. I liked the second story much better and I think I’d have liked a book just about that much much better.

I did enjoy Ondaatje’s writing though, and look forward to reading more of his books.

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