Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

Divisadero is a novel divided into two story lines, about a century apart and on different continents. The tenuous relationship between the two stories mirrors the tenuous human relationships in the novel. The first story takes place in rural Northern California in the 1970s, on the farm of a makeshift family: a father whose wife died in childbirth, his daughter Anna, an adopted daughter Claire (who was born and orphaned during the same week as Anna), and Coop, a young man from a neighboring farm who was taken in by this family as a young child after his parents were murdered. Anna and Claire are especially close, inseparable as most twins, and both view Coop as part of the family, a special sibling-like older friend. However, Anna and Coop develop an attaction and passion for each other, and when Anna's father eventually catches them together, the consequences are horrible and violent. Anna's father beats up Coop (who does not fight back), and Anna runs away, so that Claire, Coop, and Anna completely lose touch with each other. The family they had is gone.

The second story follows the life of a reclusive famous writer, Lucien Segura, whose work and biography the grown-up Anna is researching with fascination. I thought that Lucien Segura's story was every bit as compelling as the first, and there are parallels between Anna's and Lucien's lives and motifs that multiply in the reader's mind upon reflection. The stories are not told chronologically, since Ondaatje is really striving to express how certain events in our lives make us who we are and so never fade away with time.

I found this book beautifully written and captivating, and enjoyed all of it. It's true that not all the lives are resolved at the end, but as a young Lucien Segura once said to a friend, "Not knowing something essential makes you more involved." Ondaatje doesn't just give out the answers.


TLP said...

I just love your reviews. I'll definitely read this one.

TLP said...

I'm loving it so far.