Anil's Ghost

Anil's Ghost

Book - 2000
Average Rating:
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In his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient -- winner of the Booker Prize and the Governor General's Award -- Michael Ondaatje gives us Anil's Ghost, a work displaying all the richness of imagery and language and the piercing emotional truth we have come to know as the hallmarks of his writing. The time is our own time. The place, Sri Lanka, the island nation off the southern tip of India, a country formerly known as Ceylon, which is steeped in centuries of cultural achievement and tradition -- and forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of civil war and the consequences of a country divided against itself. Into this maelstrom steps a young woman, Anil Tissera, born in Sri Lanka, educated in the West, a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human-rights group to work with local officials to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. Bodies are discovered. Skeletons. And particularly one, nicknamed "Sailor." What follows, in a novel vivid with character and event, is a story about love, about family, about loss, about the unknown enemy and the quest to unlock the hidden past -- all propelled by a riveting mystery. Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka's landscape and ancient civilization, Anil's Ghost is a literary spellbinder -- a timeless work of art and a revelatory journey.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2000
ISBN: 9780771068935
077106893X
Branch Call Number: FIC Ondaa 3558ad 1
Characteristics: 311 p

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b
booksphinx
Feb 06, 2015

Like the reader, Pisinga, I also struggled with the structure of this book.

I wanted so much to like this three times award-winning novel. When I first struggled with the disjointed, stream of consciousness type writing, I thought I should just bite my lip and struggle on - maybe it would get better later.

Anil was the main character in the story and try as I might to feel some affection or empathy for her, I just couldn't. She seemed self-absorbed, a little manipulative/cruel, occasionally sexual (not a minus, but seemed out-of-place somehow), callous and cold. Maybe I am misunderstanding her. She seemed like a black sheep. I get that a certain amount of distance and dark humor helps in a profession like hers, but she was particularly "cool". Almost like a - well, almost like a "ghost".

Maybe that's where the author was going with this...

In any case, getting through the book was a chore. Lots of complicated third person narrative like this:

"Archaeology lives under the same rules as the Napoleonic Code. The point was not that he would ever be proved wrong in his theories, but that he could not prove he was right. Still, the patterns that emerged for Palipana had begun to coalesce. They linked hands. They allowed walking across water, they allowed a leap from treetop to treetop. The water filled a cut alphabet and linked this shore and that. And so the unprovable truth emerged."

Beautiful, in the way some poetry is beautiful, but 307 pages of this and it gets a little hard-going.

Perhaps on a second read-through, I would understand more of what was going on in this story, but I don't think I'm going to revisit this book in a hurry. I'd be interested to read other books by Ondaatje to see if they read any better - or if they have more relatable characters.

All in all, this book had a few moments of exquisite beauty/compelling tragedy which seemed to snuff themselves out quickly. Finding relatable moments or characters in this book was like trying to find only strawberry centres in a packet of Bridge Mixture: hardly an 'unpleasant' experience and I could appreciate the other pieces, but ultimately I was left feeling unsatisfied, as this book contained too little of the things I would usually like in a story.

p
Pisinga
Jan 29, 2012

I did not like the structure of the book: some fragments of fragments. Suddenly question arises: Who is that and what he does in the pages of the story?
I didn’t like Anil’s character.

Perhaps for someone is not a burden to say names of the characters, but it is difficult to pronounce them (if you try).

Those who are familiar with the history of Sri Lanka will nderstand much more than the first time introducers to it, like me.

Despite the fact that the author is trying to be neutral with respect to all parties in the conflict that is leading to the insane destruction of people, there is still somehow a feeling that his sympathy for the guerrillas and insurgents is more than to the government’s army. It is difficult to judge, not being more familiar with the situation in the country.

b
Books100
Oct 28, 2010

I read the book and parts of it I liked very much and other parts I disliked intensely. The prose—poetry is beautiful and deep, e.g. "the hum of the bee motoring within the garden" and other references to things and places. You can read passages more than once and be moved by the comparisons between the human world and the world of nature. But I found the characters aptly described by the title "Anil's Ghost" is just that. Ghostly characters that wisp and float within the book's chapters, shadows flickering on the wall. When I read a book I want to be savaged by the character(s), I want to be drawn into their essence, to know and feel cry and laugh by their conversations, and their experiences of love and pain. I want the plot to drag me into the story and entertain me in their world. I want the story or the characters lives not to end, and stop reading only until I've finished reading it. I had to really push myself to finish this novel.

s
Spillie
Jun 22, 2010

A challenging book but a very good read.

r
reviewer
Nov 05, 2007

Probably the best work of poetic fiction ever written by probably the world's greatest living author.

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