- 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: #801,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Divisadero Hardcover – Apr 17 2007
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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 the Paperback edition.
“Genius (there is no other word for a writer of such grace and depth). Ondaatje’s unique gift is that his stories perform an inexorable seduction, impossible to resist. . . . Divisadero shines with an indisputable and incomparable power. . . . A brilliant sleight of hand.”
— Globe and Mail
“The bewitching, assured Divisadero is the perfect reminder of why Ondaatje deserves to be honoured with his global peers.”
“Gorgeous. . . . It’s Ondaatje’s singular achievement to explore the heavy costs and burdens of colliding human lives with a lightness of touch and clarity of vision that makes for dead-run compelling reading.”
— National Post
“Michael Ondaatje’s prose is breathtaking. . . . Divisadero is his most beautiful [novel]. . . . [A] luminous book by one of our most thoughtful and erudite writers.”
— Charlotte Gray, Ottawa Citizen
“Intricate, lyrical, profoundly moving, this brilliantly imagined mediation on love, loss and memory. . . .”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“At once powerful and beautiful . . .”
— Booklist (starred review)
“Michael Ondaatje is the Canadian William Faulkner, writing novels that are visually unforgettable, stylistically inimitable, utterly devoted to the rise and fall of the human heart . . . . Compelling and moving. . . .”
— Vancouver Sun
“It has the ensemble qualities of early Robert Altman films and the poetic intensity of Ingmar Bergman’s oeuvre. . . . Masterly writing. . . .”
— Montreal Gazette
“The spare erotics and lucid passions of Divisadero engage readers first and last through Ondaatje’s supple and resonant gifts with language, syntax and style, in the service of stories and voices that resonate far beyond the page. . . . The lives and longings of [his characters] quietly but insistently enter your own, as if you’d known them for an era — and as if their stories should mean something to you. And you have, and they do.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“Emotionally riveting. . . . [Divisadero] delivers his trademark seductive prose, quixotic characters and psychological intricacy.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Ondaatje’s writing is evocative, powerful and deeply intimate. The reader can’t help but care about all of the characters. . . . [who] come to accept the reality of their own lives, and the loss of the ones who meant the most.”
— Calgary Herald
From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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]
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