by Michael Ondaatje
Category: Fiction / General
307 pages; ISBN: 0-330-48077-4
Rating: 6/10 (Ratings explained)
This was a novel I picked out of the Lucky Dip at my reading group's Christmas party last year.I wasn't sure it was going to be my cup of tea so I was never going to be disappointed.
Michael Ondaatje is an expatriate Sri Lankan poet and the novel is concerned with the civil war in that country in the early 90s. The central protagonist is a young woman, Anil who returns to her home country on an assignment from an Amnesty-like organisation to carry out a forensic investigation on an uncovered skeleton.
As you might guess this book is steeped in political correctness.Although Anil has had a casual relationship with a married man she is clearly more engaged with another woman called Leaf. The Sri Lanka-based characters are all portrayed as having greater depths of emotion and poetry in their soul than the West-tainted and guilt-ridden Anil.
The investigation itself is moderately interesting and its climax quite gripping.Ondaatje doesn't shy away from the horrors of the times.However the reader is continually being sidetracked by the relationships;between Anil and her archaeologist partner Sarath(very Mulder and Scully),Sarath and his doctor brother Gamini,Anil and her family, Sarath and his former mentor and so on.It's all very adult and couched in poetic language but you never really care about the characters probably because (the bizarre inclusion of a couple of the verses from "Friggin In The Riggin" aside) there isn't a trace of humour in his writing.
Worthy but dull.