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Divisadero    by Michael Ondaatje order for
by Michael Ondaatje
Order:  USA  Can
McClelland & Stewart, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

After a long wait (seven years since his last novel) Ondaatje has delivered an inspired epic. Divisadero is a structurally complex book, yet the reader flows through its pages as if drifting leisurely down an exotic river. Every word has been carefully crafted using symbolism, recurring images, allusions and poetic devices. The attentive booklover will be enthralled by this read.

The plot is a connection of episodic events that draw the stories together. In fact, two novellas intertwine to develop the main themes of the book. Two such themes that occur throughout the book delve into our personal understanding and experiences with memory and secrecy. My favourite quote is as follows: 'He'd been a secretive man for most of his life, and now was disconcerted by the secrets he had kept from himself.'

In the beginning there are three main characters; two sisters and a young farmhand who live together with a single dad in rural California. The sisters are the same age, but one was adopted after her mother died during childbirth. The story had both Anna and Claire come home from the hospital on the same day. All live in relative bliss until an emotional incident splits the family when the girls are fifteen.

Later we are introduced to another vivid character, Lucien Segura, a turn of the century French author. He lives in another rural setting in southern France with few neighbours other than those in an adjacent farm. Here, he meets Marie-Neige an object of unrequited love.

Divisadero is a very thoughtful book, but never dull. If it takes another seven years to get this quality again, then the wait will be well worth it.

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