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Running in the Family Paperback – International Edition, November 30, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 30, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679746692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679746690
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Best known for his novel The English Patient , Ondaatje wrote this 1982 memoir after returning to his native Ceylon. His experiences led to a "you can go home again" reflection on his family and country. "For the outsider, this memoir offers a poignant vision exotic in cultural particulars, familiar in intimate human feelings" ( LJ 11/15/82).
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Brightly coloured, sweet and painful, bloody-minded and otherworldly, [this book] achieves the status of legend.”
–Margaret Atwood

“Eloquent, oblique, witty, full of light and feeling.…Ondaatje’s knowledge of the fragility and luck of life is very clear. So, too, is the grace and originality of his prose.”
The New Yorker

“Ondaatje has produced a remarkable book.…Shimmering through the haze of heat and memory is an impressionistic, sometimes surreal portrait of an exotic time and place now gone, a colonial paradise that had its own rhythms and imperatives.”
Globe and Mail

“A beautiful, luscious book. Michael Ondaatje has depicted his extraordinary family, who delighted in masks and costumes and love affairs that ‘rainbowed over marriages’ in the kind of language that makes glory of their lives. He has gone on a poet’s journey to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and the reader who travels with him enters a truly magical world.”
–Maxine Hong Kingston

“It sparkles with the intensity and vividness of its multifaceted tales of romance and intrigue.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“A brilliant, charming, poetic, hyperbolic holiday of a book.…Ondaatje walks the line between fact and fiction with a delicately rendered delight.”
Vancouver Province

“…the brilliant and moving book he has written is original in every way that matters.”
–W. S. Merwin

“A beautiful, luscious book of discovery and remembrance.”
Hamilton Spectator

“With a prose style equal to the voluptuousness of [Ondaatje’s] subject and a sense of humor never too far away, Running in the Family is sheer reading pleasure.”
Washington Post

“It dazzles with its range of imagination, richness of language and the consistently involving changes of mood and tempo.”
Toronto Star

“This is an intriguing, funny, dream-like book, impossible to put down.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“…brief, vivid scenes, moments revived out of remote memories, pictures of the intensities lived by his passionate parents… amid the lush flora, the predatory fauna, and the old-fashioned life of the British colonies. This is great story-telling.…"
–Leon Edel


From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

I enjoyed the book full of lyrical writing.
Sunil Govinnage
Once I started reading this book I could not put it down.
luvto read
He tells very good things and he tells very bad things.
smele

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Janelle W. on July 5, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Running in the Family" is an impressionistically written and reflective memoir of Michael Ondaatje's eccentric Ceylonese family.
The book begins with a series of disjointed stories about Ondaatje's parents and grandparents. I found this part somewhat hard to get through as Ondaatje drops into the stories without providing the reader with the necessary information to understand who the players are and why they are important. However, since the book is highly impressionistic in style, perhaps this approach works. After all, most of us learn about our family history in bits and pieces; we don't pick up yarns and memory bites in chronological order.
The third section, "Don't Talk to Me about Matisse" is a literary treasure! Ondaatje weaves a travel journal with childhood memories. Ondaatje's journey through Sri Lanka and memory land is depicted with great passion and reflection: "I witnessed everything. One morning I would wake and just smell things for the whole day, it was so rich I had to select senses. And still everything moved slowly with the assured fateful speed of a coconut falling on someone's head, like the Jaffna train, like the fan at low speed, like the necessary sleep in the afternoon with dreams blinded by toddy."
Ondaatje generously included several of his poems in the middle of the book. "The Cinnamon Peeler", with its strong sensuality, serves as a fitting metaphor for the stories about romantic interludes in the author's family. "The Cinnamon Peeler" is so beautiful, I plan to commit it to memory.
Ondaatje dwells on the salient qualities of his relatives and homeland. If this book were a painting, it would be a mostly green wash of color with bright, blood red splashes.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Gertrude Wellikoff on April 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
No author can make every book work. It's unfair to expect that. This is the first Ondaajate book I read, make that: devoured. I loved the non-linearity, the depth of love for his home country, the characters gathering and separating. I write this review because I believe strongly that Anil's Ghost is the companion piece to "Running in the Family" and less well-done, less artful. But this book more than makes up for the flaws in the later book. Perhaps the kleig lights of fame are too hot for a writer to work at his best. I say that because the author of this book is so gifted and has so much to evoke that I expect he will do so again, maybe not in his beloved, insane Sri Lanka, or maybe back there again. So, in closing, If you despaired of loving "Anil's Ghost" read this and you're efforts will be fully redeemed.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By "literatelunatic" on April 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I thought that this was a beautiful book but I wouldn't recommend it to everyone-if you're the type whose reading is limited to thrillers and soppy romance then I doubt this would do for you. But if you like imaginative, beautiful, flawless writing, like me, then you'd love this wonderful memoir everybit as much as I did. Ondaatje transports you into his world through his witty, tender and sensual writing...in places it reads like a poem. Running in the Family is sort of like a sketchbook...filled with humourous anecdotes, sensual poems and glimpses of beauty and history...and of course, his outrageous family. Even though I live in Sri Lanka and am familiar with most of the places and things he writes about I was still delightfully stunned by the way he adds new insight and meaning and beauty to these things. Also, I used to imagine that memoirs were dull and boring...but I totally regret my words now. This is hilarious (though in places exaggerated), beautiful and powerful stuff and I give it my highest recommendation.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
Ondaatje makes prose poetic like no other writer, and this is his best example of poetic prose. Divided into many fragments, each fragment is as dense as a small poem, as alive with imagery, and yet still contributes to the narrative as a whole. A wonderful merge of history, fiction, truth, and lie, Running contains not only the most mournful writing I have ever read, but also the most sexually charged poem, and the most loving treatment of an imperfect family. Excellent reading, even on your tenth time through
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Gillingham on February 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
In Running in the Family (1982), Ondaatje turns the biographical microscope on himself and his personal family history. There are wonderful anecdotes about his parent's courtship (a story so amazing it would make for an excellent novel in itself) and Ondaatje's feelings on returning to Ceylon. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in addition to the personal anecdotes, many of the poems I love in "The Cinnamon Peeler" have their origins here. This book is a masterful blend of prose and poetry and a must read for the Ondaatje fan.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This continues to be one of my favorite books. I give copy after copy away to new friends when I recognize theirs as families whose best intentions and selfish motivations collided in the making of their lives. While Ondaatje's post-colonial collage is partly the story of the love and destruction of the idea of Ceylon, it mostly speaks not just of his family, but of the way we all share stories and romanticize our selves. The erotic poem "The Cinnamon Peeler's Wife" is alone worth the cost of the book.
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