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Divisadero Hardcover – May 29, 2007
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Guest Reviewer: Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri was awarded the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, as well as the PEN/Hemingway Award for her mesmerizing debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies. Her poignant and powerful debut novel, The Namesake was adapted by screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala, and released in theaters in 2007.
My life always stops for a new book by Michael Ondaatje. I began Divisadero as soon as it came into my possession and over the course of a few evenings was captivated by Ondaatje's finest novel to date. The story is simple, almost mythical, stemming from a family on a California farm that is ruptured just as it is about to begin. Two daughters, Anna and Claire, are raised not just as siblings but with the intense bond of twins, interchangeable, inseparable. Coop, a boy from a neighboring farm, is folded into the girls' lives as a hired hand and quasi-brother. Anna, Claire, and Coop form a triangle that is intimate and interdependent, a triangle that brutally explodes less than thirty pages into the book. We are left with a handful of glass, both narratively and thematically. But Divisadero is a deeply ordered, full-bodied work, and the fragmented characters, severed from their shared past, persevere in relation to one another, illuminating both what it means to belong to a family and what it means to be alone in the world. The notion of twins, of one becoming two, pervades the novel, and so the farm in California is mirrored by a farm in France, the setting for another plot line in the second half of the book and giving us, in a sense, two novels in one. But the stories are not only connected but calibrated by Ondaatje to reveal a haunting pattern of parallels, echoes, and reflections across time and place. Like Nabokov, another master of twinning, Ondaatje's method is deliberate but discreet, and it was only in rereading this beautiful book--which I wanted to do as soon as I finished it--that the intricate play of doubles was revealed. Every sign of the author's genius is here: the searing imagery, the incandescent writing, the calm probing of life's most turbulent and devastating experiences. No one writes as affectingly about passion, about time and memory, about violence--subjects that have shaped Ondaatje's previous novels. But there is a greater muscularity to Divisadero, an intensity born from its restraint. Episodes are boiled down to their essential elements, distilled but dramatic, resulting in a mosaic of profound dignity, with an elegiac quietude that only the greatest of writers can achieve. --Jhumpa Lahiri
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Be forewarned: this is not a light read. The prose is smooth and lyrical and unmistakably Ondaatje. The novel focuses on memory, the past, and violence as his prior works have but Divisadero takes the concept one step further: it is separated into three distinct sections, overlapping enough only to give the reader a reason to continue reading. It reads more like a collection of three novellas than it does a novel. It also travels in reverse chronological order. I considered the opening section to be the main story, with the following stories as the reflections spoken of in the novel's last line.
This is not a novel that concerns itself heavily with plot. It is an exploration of its themes first and foremost. I don't want to speak for the author, but it seems to me it was not written to be a page turner. If that is what you're expecting I think you'll probably be disappointed. Any hope of that will be gone with the abrupt end to the opening section. But don't give up because of it. There are many novels with compelling stories: there are few that treat its reader with as much respect as Divisadero. Ondaatje tells you a story, but not all of it. He leaves the unwritten to the reader to piece together. What does it mean that Coop/Anna and Segura both have blue tables they treasure? What does it mean that Coop becomes a card player and Segura names Ramon's sidekick `One-eyed Jaques'?Read more ›
Don't get me wrong, the book is a pleasurable serious read. I read it in one sitting (one long plane ride). But it became increasingly disappointing as it went on. He refuses to tell a straight story--I get it--but the (perhaps) unintended effect of his narrative stubbornness is that as the book went on I wanted basically one thing: to know what happened to Coop, whom he abandons at mid-book.Read more ›
DIVISADERO, the book, offers two intertwined stories, connected through the peculiar literary researches of one of the modern characters named Anna. Anna specializes in writing biographies of history's secondary characters, the unkown individuals who orbit the lives of the famous. She has chosen for her latest subject an obscure, one-eyed, turn-of-the-century French poet named Lucien Segura. Anna's explorations lead her to occupy the last house where Segura lived. While there, she meets and interviews Segura's semi-adopted son Rafael, ultimately engaging him in a sexual affair.
In a dreamlike recounting of Segura's life that appears meant to be viewed as Anna's biographical voice, we later learn that Lucien was more successful as the anonymous author of a series of light escapist fictions based on his romantic imaginings of a lost love than he was as a poet.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author's writing, and his story telling is captivating. A joy to read his stories.Published 2 months ago by Linda N. Wilson
Amazing use of language, the writer plays with metaphors and the words flow into each other seamlessly, beautifully, hypnotically. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Andreea Pausan
More about the similies and metaphors of experience and thought in moving through life than any strong story or even plot. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Peter C. Mead
Not being familiar with this author's style, this novel was an absolute CHORE to finish. I found it very exasperating to follow the many story lines. Read morePublished 12 months ago by watershed
Gorgeous descriptions of nature intertwined with the complexities of being human. Ondaajte understands the repercussions of one's childhood creating the realities of one's life.Published 13 months ago by Kat
Pretentious, pseudo-poetry instead of anything like a connected plot or half-believable characters. The characters don't even make sense. Read morePublished 13 months ago by David Ira
I was not interested in this book at all. I wanted more than beautiful writing to take me along with it.Published 17 months ago by J. H. Clements