Thursday, May 03, 2012
During these twenty-one days, these boys get into various kinds of trouble, witness unusual and frightening events, and begin to look outward in more observant, mature ways than they ever have before. Specifically, these boys are awakened to how much lies beneath the surface of seemingly boring, ordinary adults. The denizens of the cat's table, for instance, are most intriguing. These characters are well presented, with a beautifully crafted amount of development twined with enough mystery to challenge the reader's imagination, leaving much to ponder.
As Michael, Ramadhin, and Cassius take the long cruise through the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean, new worlds open up for them, in both positive and negative ways; towards the end of the trip, there is a very disturbing event which remains mysterious.
This story is not told linearly. Instead, Michael moves back and forth between his momentous journey and his present life. Very little is said about his early life in Sri Lanka, or about his very first days in England with a mother he hadn't seen for about three years. I got the feeling that his story became somewhat anti-climatic after this magical time he spent on The Oronsay, that he never experienced anything so intense ever again, and that the rest of his life was all about interpreting what had happened during those days at sea.
As an adult, Michael does receive more enlightenment about what he'd witnessed during his eleventh year, when his mind was growing to include the a larger world, while still clinging to a vestige of magical thought. Of course, these things are not completely illuminated, but then, they never are. Ondaatje chose the right place to let Michael go on without the reader.
Though Michael Ondaatje states that this work is a novel, not based on fact, there are aspects that must be autobiographical, namely the fact that Ondaatje moved from Columbo to England in 1954, when he would have been eleven years old. And he did make such a voyage alone, but states that he barely remembers it, and that the adventures in this story are completely fabricated. Also, like his novel's character, he became a writer.
Anyway, both thumbs up! I enjoyed this one immensely.