- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 1 edition (April 17 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0771068727
- ISBN-13: 978-0771068720
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.7 x 21.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 408 g
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #908,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Divisadero Hardcover – Apr 17 2007
|New from||Used from|
From Publishers Weekly
Davis (American Splendor) reads Ondaatje's puzzle of a novel delicately, as if hesitant to jostle a single piece out of place. Often playing emotionally frazzled characters on screen, Davis is far more understated here in offering up Ondaatje's hybrid narrative—one that goes from 1970s San Francisco to early 20th-century France, linking past and present with loose tendrils of memory and history. She does a fine job with the tricky French names and nomenclature, and puts her natural gifts as an actor to good use with her subtle, understated, well-oiled reading. Davis still sounds as no-nonsense as ever, but her skilled reading offers a good deal more patience and tenderness than her often-testy characters do.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Ravishing and intricate . . . Few experiences in contemporary fiction are as sensual and absorbing as making one’s way through the pages of an Ondaatje novel. And there is a different, a deeper delight in going through his books a second time to see the secret stitching . . . The question that insistently haunts these elliptical and delicate works is how much their very beauty takes us away from the wars and scenes of great pain they describe, and to what extent, in courting art, they leave real life behind. Divisadero is an epic of intimate moments . . . The book is, among other things, a parable of contemporary America . . . When people call Ondaatje a poetic novelist, they are referring in part, of course, to his rare gift for language and observation. A scene of a boy on a runaway horse during an eclipse is as astonishing and hallucinatory as any such passage I can remember reading. Yet the deeper aspect of his poetic background is that his narratives proceed with the interlaced complexity of a long lyric poem . . . Part of the special delight of reading one of his books comes from the impression we get of a deeply curious traveler opening his worn suitcase and letting all the exotic bric-a-brac he’s collected on his journeys tumble out . . . Each of the romances in the book is gorgeous and singular in its effects . . . Ondaatje’s ability to fashion scenes that are at once exact and suggestive accounts not only for the sensual tingle of the books, but also for their literary pleasures . . . There is always a clear and unhurried spaciousness to Ondaatje’s paragraphs; they proceed with the deliberation and hush of a work of meditation, even while turning their attention to things of the secular world . . . Divisadero extends the liberating and original territory of that earlier triumph [The English Patient] so unforgettably that it’s hard, on finishing, not to turn back to the opening page and start all over.”
–Pico Iyer, New York Review of Books
“Exquisitely crafted and imbued with Ondaatje’s acutely sensitive intelligence, Divisadero pulls its readers inside the novelist’s craft like being inside an intricate pocket watch to learn its movements.”
–Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Ondaatje’s best books are kaleidoscopic meditations on memory, violence, time and sexuality are held together less by linearity than by rhyming action, thematic echoing and inspired juxtaposition . . . One doesn’t come to Ondaatje for resolution. One comes for the language, the discreet imagined moments, the exact metaphors, the turn of a phrase–and for the thrill of watching a writer attempting, and for the most part, succeeding, in his desire, through juxtaposition, to make the world more than it is.”
–Ethan Rutherford, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Divisadero echoes the writer’s earlier fiction in its mastery both of storytelling and of fine writing . . . It is beautifully intricate, yet credible, a subtle play on cause and effect . . . Ondaatje’s exquisite use of imagery propels his story of loss and displacement to an impressive level of fictional power . . . A subtle, stirring novel, a fine book and an arresting one.”
–Nancy Schiefer, London Free Press (Ontario)
“Divisadero is a river of images and scenes that flows through the characters’ lives like fate. So, reader, embark and journey in awe of this river master . . . Divisadero is alive, pulsing and irreducible . . . Wonders and genius [have] shaped this design . . . It is a collage, though never random, which artfully revisions the temporal into a masterpiece that will permanently affect the reader.”
–Mary Jo Anderson, Chronicle Herald (Halifax)
"Comparisons of Ondaatje to Faulkner and García Márquez are apt. His sense of time, like theirs, is one of curling, recurring flow . . . Divisadero finds Ondaatje in familiar form, which is to say eloquent, finely tuned form . . . [It] wends a crooked path, which is part of its great magic and beauty . . . The second part of the novel moves supplely from one character to another. Along the way come many gorgeous passages, many dreamlike sequences . . . Ondaatje is a very sexy writer and understands well the ins and outs of the courtly-love relationship . . . Ondaatje has always been a real craftsman, spending his one true commodity, time, with the utmost patience and care.”
–Jon Raymond, Bookforum
“A bleakly moving rendering of lives disrupted by brutality and loss . . . Ondaatje demands a reader’s trust, an acceptance that a work of fiction can accommodate the peculiar alignments that bless and bedevil everyday life . . . The crosscurrents of his writing flow and ripple against each other as poems might. Sequences of images set themselves out in their individual beauty and lucidity . . . Give in to Ondaatje and his language will seduce you . . . He is at his best let loose in the dream world of his warmblooded imagination . . . There is something endearingly human about this book, for all its art.”
–Erica Wagner, New York Times Book Review
“The more you give Divisadero, the more it gives in return . . . Mr. Ondaatje does not write in mundanely linear ways, nor does he see events as isolated instances. There are always webs of memory, slips of time and divisions in experience to break the spell of an ordinary world . . . Divisadero has a highly literary sensibility . . . Anna finds meaning in her own life by plumbing the history of Lucien, now a famous dead literary figure[;] trust Mr. Ondaatje to express [this] exquisitely . . . Since Mr. Ondaatje writes with such grace, he brings a haunting, sensual delicacy to this latter part of Divisadero . . . He is a writer of intense acuity. His eminence is well earned.”
–Janet Maslin, New York Times
“[The] division between the world as it is and the world as we imagine it to be is what gives our lives such poignancy, Ondaatje seems to be saying . . . This is a beautiful idea . . . With this elegant, singular book, Michael Ondaatje proves that it is not too brilliant a lodestar to shove straight into the heart of a novel.”
–John Freeman, Sunday Star-Ledger
“[Divisadero has] a heck of an opening. And Ondaatje delivers on the promise of that beginning . . . His poetical skills are much in evidence in this novel . . . He’s prodigiously talented, conjuring richly detailed scenes with a minimum of words . . . Beautiful and haunting.”
–Soyia Ellison, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“The prose is rich in image and ideas . . . Doubling adds resonance to the Segura chapters, which are full of charming anecdotes . . . Ondaatje may well leave you hungry–for more of Claire, for the fate of Coop, for Anna in old age, for a sample of Segura's writing or for an easier, neater plot. But he could never leave you empty, the way even the fattest beach read can.”
–Jeffrey Burke, Bloomberg News
“Hauntingly beautiful . . . What an unusual, and unusually rich, experience it is to read Divisadero, the new novel by Michael Ondaatje . . . Ondaatje expertly shift[s] into different voices and tenses, disrupting the conventional chronology with the easy grace that has become his hallmark . . . There are countless examples of perfect phrasing in Divisadero, and those who spend time within its pages will discover even more proof–not that they needed it–of Michael Ondaatje's peerlessness as a storyteller and poet.
–Jeff Turrentine, Washington Post Book World
“Magnificent . . . Ondaatje pulls off the plotlines masterfully . . . He introduces memorable characters [and] scenes of majestic texture and captivating imagery . . . From its first to last telling sentence, this aesthetic tale, poetic with human detail, is a rare and precious pleasure.”
–Don Oldenburg, USA Today
“One can consider Divisadero a novelistic evocation of Buddhist ideas . . . In ways too myriad to enumerate, the luminous last hundred pages complement and refract what came before.”
–Art Winslow, Chicago Tribune
“Divisadero plays whimsically with chronology and memory, with fantasy and historical fact . . . Ondaatje also employs a more unusual tactic: having followed three California characters from childhood into their 30s, he spins around and takes two mature French characters in order to trace their histories back in time. It's a brilliant maneuver . . . Misty abstraction is always the danger of lyrical imagination [but] Ondaatje’s success as a novelist is due, in large part, to his consistent ability to avoid that pitfall.”
–Marcela Valdes, San Francisco Chronicle
“Divisadero is powered by narrative force and contains finely chiseled characters. [It] is also a book profuse with poetic imagery, profound themes and the delicate architecture of open verse . . . Stunning bits of lyrical observation turn up on almost every page . . . Breathtaking.”
–John Barron, Chicago Sun-Times
“Ondaatje knows the value of dramatic action and strong, sympathetic characters, and is working at his peak in this book.”
–David Walton, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“An exquisitely realized novel . . . The most soulful writers, like the great jazz musicians, will keep finding new ways to play the same gorgeous notes again and again. Michael Ondaatje’s voice–his prismatic perspective on time and memory, on the elegiac repetitions of life–is so particular and distinctive that you can spot it at 20 yards . . . Divisadero is a haunting, meticulously conceived novel . .... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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. Anna becomes a writer and Divisadero continues in investigating her research and writing about a poet and novelist. From there, Mr. Ondaatje peels the onion once more to take you into the life of the poet and novelist and his identity and perceptions.
As the stories play out, you'll be fascinated by many sub themes such as the way that we are often twinned with another. How do such twins develop separate identities? In addition, Mr. Ondaatje describes a universe that seems to be operated by unseen hands or laws that cause memes and experiences to recur.
After finishing the book, I was struck by how much meaning Mr. Ondaatje was able to draw out of a tragic event. I suggest you mull over the same point and spend some time thinking about what has happened to you . . . in terms of its meaning, rather than just its lessons.
Great work, Mr. Ondaatje!
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. With each reiteration, new aspects of the story are introduced for the reader to explore.
The actual plot can be summarized very quickly. It is evidently not Ondaatje's primary motivation for writing "Divisadero". His interest clearly lies in exploring the essence of his characters, their feelings and sensuality, their interaction with others and their physical environments and finally, their ability to recover (or not) from deep trauma. A widower raises his daughter, Anna, and adopts an orphan girl, Claire, born on the same day, as a pseudo twin sister for her. Coop, son of a local farm hand, also an orphan, is added to the small family. When the girls are sixteen, a devastating event abruptly ends the until then mostly idyllic life in rural northern California. They break apart, each coping in a different way with what they experienced. "The raw truth of an incident never ends" Anna reflects later on. Claire's and Coop's stories are interleafed with Anna's. Coop's character, in particular, is expertly drawn, as he lives out the challenges of his youth.
We meet "Anna" again, living in Southern France, as a biographer, researching the life of Lucien Seguro, a little known author who lived there nearly a century ago. She has since shed her name and former identity. Her life becomes indirectly linked to the writer she studies, in part through Rafael, who was connected to Lucien in a similar vein that Coop was connected to Anna's family. While the narrative switches to Seguro's life, his coming of age and the people surrounding him, we are led to make connections, see parallels. Ondaatje's sensitive exploration of the growing fondness between Lucien and his young neighbour, Marie-Neige, is one of the most touching and haunting love stories one can imagine. Comparisons are invited between Anna's life and Lucien's. At every stage, though, Ondaatje leaves us guessing who the narrator is. Is everything written by Anna? Nietzsche's "We have art, so that we shall not be destroyed by the truth", is initially introduced by Anna on page one of the novel, and later repeated. While we are receiving signals that Anna's recollections may not be necessarily the only version of the truth, Ondaatje leaves the question open to interpretation. In a wider sense, encompassing the whole novel, there are hints of an "invented life" - to make it less painful and to come to terms with her abandonment of her sister and Coop in a time of crisis. The beginning is in the end completing the collage created. [Friederike Knabe]
Want to see more reviews on this item?
Most recent customer reviews