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Divisadero Hardcover – Apr 17 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 1 edition (April 17 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771068727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771068720
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 15.2 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #224,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 18 2007
Format: Hardcover
Divisadero will appeal most to those who are deeply interested in identity and perception. This is one of those rare novels that successful explores a philosophical issue, much as Dostoyevsky does with Crime and Punishment.

If, however, you are looking to a traditional novel about one person or a family, you'll find the dream-like shards of this book disturbing and difficult . . . rather than rewarding. You might want to read another novel instead.

Let me take you into Mr. Ondaatje's theme. Who are you? Most people would answer in terms of their name, their associations, their work, where they live, and their experiences. Michael Ondaatje demonstrates a different point of view; you are who you want to be. You can choose to die to who you were born and become someone else. The ease of doing that is increased if you go where no one knows you. But, your perceptions will be permanently framed by your life experiences in a way you cannot escape. Witness the excellent advice to first novelists: Write what you know. If you do that, you can change who you are (become a novelist) but you'll see the world through the lens of your experience even when you shift your focus to new ground.

The primary character in this book, Anna, lives this experience. She grows up in a twin-like existence with an adopted sister, Claire, and a near-brother, the neighbor boy Coop, who works as a hand for her family. The distance between them is broken when Anna and Coop begin to want more from one another. That idyll is broken by an event so terrible it will stay with you in nightmares. Nothing can remain the same.

But what will happen? The story develops from there to follow the disconnected lives of Anna, Claire, and Coop.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Lakusta on June 13 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to write a review for a novel that rises above superlatives. Ondaatje is one of the world's greatest living writers, and Divisadero is his finest novel. At times it rises to the level of true greatness, and it is the most challenging novel I have ever read. It is also my new favorite.

Be forewarned: this is not a light read. The prose is smooth and lyrical and unmistakably Ondaatje. The novel focuses on memory, the past, and violence as his prior works have but Divisadero takes the concept one step further: it is separated into three distinct sections, overlapping enough only to give the reader a reason to continue reading. It reads more like a collection of three novellas than it does a novel. It also travels in reverse chronological order. I considered the opening section to be the main story, with the following stories as the reflections spoken of in the last line of the novel.

This is not a novel that concerns itself heavily with plot. It is an exploration of its themes first and foremost. I do not want to speak for the author, but it seems to me it was not written to be a page turner. If that is what you are expecting I think you will probably be disappointed. Any hope of that will be gone with the abrupt end to the opening section. But do not give up because of it. There are many novels with compelling stories: there are few that treat its reader with as much respect as Divisadero. Ondaatje tells you a story, but not all of it. He leaves the unwritten to the reader to piece together. What does it mean that Coop/Anna and Segura both have blue tables they treasure? What does it mean that Coop becomes a card player and Segura names Ramon's sidekick "One-eyed Jaques"? What does it mean that the colors of Anna?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 21 2008
Format: Paperback
Michael Ondaatje writes in his new novel, "[T]here is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross." At one level "Divisadero" is such a collage, spreading scenarios across more than one hundred years and several continents. Initially seemingly disconnected events and individual stories are nevertheless intertwined in some way. They converge around Anna, the anchor in the narrative who brings the different segments together. At another level, Ondaatje's exquisitely written novel is about recurring themes of identity, love, loss and pain, and the potentially healing power of passing time and remembrance. Completely absorbing, I found it deeply moving and enriching. A book to be read more than once to be fully appreciated in composition and content.

A certain mystique surrounds the title; its varied possible interpretations find their echo in the structure of the novel and the personal histories of the protagonists. According to Anna "divisadero" means "to divide" and also "to gaze at from afar". A pivotal experience at some point in each protagonist's life has broken its continuity, resulting in a major change or split in their life from then on. Some inner consolidation may be achieved as time allows for re-examination of the past and discovering of similarities in others. Ondaatje uses different voices and perspectives to bring to the reader more than one linear narrative. The novel's structure also reminded me of a musical composition: across the distinct 'movements' themes are nonetheless recurring, and innocuous motifs, such as the shards of glass, can take on symbolic character in their repetition; parallels in the protagonists' lives are slowly revealed and linkages established.
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