Divisadero takes us from the city of San Francisco to the raucous backrooms of Nevada's casinos and eventually to the landscape of south-central France. As the narrative moves back and forth in time and place, we discover each of the characters managing to find some foothold in a present rough hewn from the past.
Breathtakingly evoked and with unforgettable characters, Divisadero is a multilayered novel about passion, loss, and the unshakable past, about the often discordant demands of family, love, and memory. It is Michael Ondaatje's most intimate and beautiful novel to date.
©2007 Michael Ondaatje; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"A haunting, sensual delicacy....he is a writer of intense acuity. His eminence is well earned. This book is initially difficult, but the more you give Divisadero, the more it gives in return." (The New York Times)
While densely packed with beautiful, intense images and descriptive passages that show a deep connection to nature and to the human condition, it seemed to me this novel did not deliver a progressive, cohesive story line. The characters appeared to inhabit an non-organized dream world of fantasy that was at times disturbing and depressing. I felt I was caving, groping along dark passageways, shining my headlight on small areas but with no information about where I was going. If you like this sort of narrative style, then this book is for you. If you prefer a more linear method of fiction delivery, then I would steer clear.
However, the author never dissapoints in demonstrating his mastery of image and metaphor and there were some excellently constructed passages in what I would only loosely call a story. It's really poetry, presented in the envelope of prose.
If Ondaatje were not a good writer. Divisadero would be an artful waste of time. This is a tale of two stories that have nearly nothing to do with one another, and to me end up detracting from one another. The story of Coop, Anna, et al. is slow starting but gets quite intersting. If only Ondaatje would let us know what happens once the family finds one another again. He doesn't. He just stops half way through the story to talk about the long route of destiny that Anna's new lover took to end up living in a deceaced writers house. And the story keeps going back in time, farther away from what the reader cares about (the plight of Coop), to mutiple generations in the past, to people so irrelevant, that the reader feels no bond for the newly introduced charaters. The stoty then just ends. And to me, ends in total disappointment. I do not recommend this book, unless you like frustration and and an artful waste of time.
I loved this book. Ondaatje's writing is incandescent. The structure, as others have noted, is unconventional. It shifts around in time and points of view and the two halves tell stories that are almost unrelated but they explore similar emotional terrain. The reader is absolutely perfect--a beautiful voice, thoughtful in her pacing and emphasis, and the book's many French names are completely natural to her. This is a story about the deepest bonds possible between people and the way they shape our lives.
I loved this book, even though it came to no real resolution or connected ending. I lived for many years in the area of Northern California that much of the story is set in, and so has the author it seems. The details were so exact and it made me feel like I had gone home. I can't speak for the area of France written about in the story, having never been there. The book is poetic (as one reviewer mentioned), mythic, beautiful writing with engaging and interesting characters. 5 stars if the story had come together and made a point, but I did love it nevertheless.
This audiobook has the customary mellifluous writing style of Ondaatje, like reading prose from an outstanding poet, coupled with superb audio narration by Hope Davis. The book has 3 intertwined plots -- a typical stylistic approach by Ondaatje -- that range in space from California to France, and in time from the 1890s to the 1990s.
I've lived in the setting all my life, more than 60 years - and the author has it comically wrong, sadly wrong, and that is but a forerunner to the poor research applied to creating this story. Actually, it is not much of a story - more of a political diatribe masquerading as entertainment. An interesting, but again poorly researched, venture into France should have produced an opportunity for character development - nope - shallow, but "heartfelt," explorations into soap opera situations only produced lame dialog, transparent motivation, and boredom. The disjointed, childish, and uninteresting plot didn't save the shallow characters. I would have given this a minus number but that was not an option. We all waste some credits at some time - this was mine.
Divisadero may well be Michael Ondaatje's finest work. As a writer, Ondaatje always challenges his readers to go beyond what he has written. Divisadero is no exception. In this exquisite, elusive novel, he tosses his readers onto the shimmering web of human experience. Divisadero is a shining gem that elevates our consciousness by sending us on a mythic journey across time and space. Through the lives of his characters, Ondaatje, with breathtaking, beautiful prose, encourages us to recognize, honor and ultimately release the pivotal, often painful, events that shape every human life. Only then, can we find redemption and grace within the myriad, precious connections that make us who we are.
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