Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

Not exactly The English Patient review of Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje .. The novel explores that territory where the personal and the political intersect in the fulcrum of war. Its style, though, is more straightforward, less densely poetical. While many of Ondaatje's literary trademarks are present--frequent shifts in time, almost hallucinatory imagery, the gradual interweaving of characters' pasts with the present--the prose here is more accessible. This is not to say that the author has forgotten his poetic roots; subtle, evocative images abound. Consider, for example, this description of Anil at the end of the day, standing in a pool of water, "her toes among the white petals, her arms folded as she undressed the day, removing layers of events and incidents so they would no longer be within her." In Anil's Ghost Michael Ondaatje has crafted both a brutal examination of internecine warfare and an enduring meditation on identity, loyalty, and the unbreakable hold the past exerts over the present.

Quick take

Interesting in many respects: the prose is easy yet lovely, the topic (forensic medicine with a human rights angle), and the treatment of shifting in dimensions. But somehow I didn't really like Anil's character. She didn't seem quite real, a trite stereotype of the many do-gooders. Somehow her motivations seemed forced. While using the same successful and engaging writing style, Ondaatje's Anil doesn't seem quite to make it.

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall