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In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje (256pp)

A spellbinding writer, Ondaatje exhibits a poet's sensibility and care for the precise, illuminating word. The author of Coming Through Slaughter and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid again paints an impressionistic picture mixing real events and intersected fictional lives. We meet Patrick Lewis in his youth, living in the harsh but beautiful Canadian back country, with his father, a dynamiter of log jams. The action then segues to Toronto in the 1920s, where daredevil bridge builders, immigrants from many countries, are engaged in erecting an enormous span. A scene in which a young nun is swept off the unfinished bridge on a stormy night will make readers gasp; descriptions of the skill and agility of the bridge workers and the laborers who build a tunnel under Lake Ontario, going about their work in the yawning maw of danger, are also graphically stunning. When Patrick comes to Toronto, feeling himself an immigrant from the provinces, his life becomes entwined with those of actresses Clara Dickens and Alice Gull, with whom he experiences love, despair and, eventually, compulsion to commit a violent act. Ondaatje everywhere uses "a spell of language" to spin his brilliantly evoked tale. He writes, "The best art can order the chaotic tumble of events" and "the first sentence of every novel should be: 'Trust me, this will take time, but there is order here, very faint, very human.' " Both statements aptly describe this beautiful work. 

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  • A former member
    A former member

    The discussion was great. I can see I will enjoy this book club! Thanks to all for good comments. What is our next book?

    May 5, 2014

    • Peter

      Hi Jody, the next meeting of this part of the group is on May 28th and the book is "A Sport and a Pastime" by James Salter. Christine is hosting a meeting of her group next Monday (in north Austin) and her book is "The Silver Lining Playbook".

      May 5, 2014

  • Charles H.

    This research is all good, Andy. Thanks for your time. I will have something to say if the journal thinks he's Margaret Atwood, although, now that I mention it . . . . Well, he and she don't use words in the same way. I, too, learned a lot from the discussion. Things others see that I've never thought of. I do understand there's a universal need for a pattern, even physicists crave patterns. I'm happy enough to read poetry with only some hint of a story behind it, but maybe I should demand more. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read something that most of you didn't love, and commenting honestly on it.

    May 1, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I enjoyed last night's discussion immensely. I certainly appreciate the book much more as a result of the insights provided.

    May 1, 2014

  • Rosanne J.

    Not my favorite book, but appreciate much more after our discussion. Thanks to everyone.

    April 30, 2014

  • Rosanne J.

    Great discussion. As usual, I appreciate the book much more after all the shared thoughts.....Andy, I am overwhelmed by the analysis, thanks for sending the link.

    April 30, 2014

  • Peter

    This is such a wonderful group of people! Lots of fascinating, diverse opinions. Most were concerned at the lack of cohesion in the storyline and the lack of depth in the drawing of the key characters. However, they all loved the quality of the writing. Overall, the majority felt the book was worth a second read. For me, that makes it a five star book.

    April 30, 2014

  • Susan G.

    A great discussion and very insightful.

    April 30, 2014

  • Charles H.

    Thanks, Andy. Looks good. You might like that novel of his called Coming Through Slaughter. Shorter.

    April 30, 2014

  • Andy

    Analysis showing why Michael Ondaatje required eight years to write this book: http://gmacpla.edublogs.org/files/2012/05/ITSOAL-Awesome-notes-w91k7h.doc

    April 30, 2014

  • Andy

    Commentary discussing how "In the Skin of a Lion" does and does not fit into Canadian literary tradition: http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/scl/article/view/8175/9232

    April 30, 2014

  • Laneda

    I read and loved the book, but my sister needs me in Katy this week, so I will miss the meeting.

    April 28, 2014

    • Peter

      Sorry to hear that Laneda, we shall miss you.

      April 29, 2014

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