Book Club reads In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

intheskinofalionMichael Ondaatje is probably best known for The English Patient which became a movie starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas. Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion predates The English Patient by five years and indeed, two characters from the novel reappear in the later novel.

What did book club members think?

Two of our members endorsed the novel wholeheartedly speaking highly of Ondaatje’s prose, characters and the ‘magical realism’ of the storyline. As for the majority, reactions were mixed. Many, myself included, agreed that the author’s prose is superb and the setting – post WWI Toronto – particularly intriguing as this is our city. However, this second group found the story itself both confusing and disjoint. Interestingly, Goodreads members echo this division of opinion with many five star and two star reviews.

We spent a while discussing the novel’s focus on immigrants – how they fit into a new culture, who accepts them, who looks down on them, the challenges they face and so on. A particularly relevant theme for today.

So, if you’re a story-driven reader, probably not the best choice. If you love reading beautiful sentences or you are looking for inspiration for your own writing, you might want to indulge in one or more of Ondaatje’s novels. And by the way, The English Patient scores praise for both its prose and its story.

In the Skin of a Lion: Bristling with intelligence and shimmering with romance, this novel tests the boundary between history and myth. Patrick Lewis arrives in Toronto in the 1920s and earns his living searching for a vanished millionaire and tunneling beneath Lake Ontario. In the course of his adventures, Patrick’s life intersects with those of characters who reappear in Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning The English Patient.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

A Year of Reading – Part 2

Following on from Tuesday’s post, here’s the second list of books read during 2016.

read-in-2016

Here’s the rating system I used in 2014 and 2015: LR = light, enjoyable read; GR = good, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NF=Non-Fiction; NMT = not my type.

Jun Windmill Point Jim Stempel ER Highly recommended; tells the story of Cold Harbour and the final months of the American Civil War
Elihu Washburne Michael Hill NF Research: Diary and letters of America’s Minister to France during 1870s siege and commune
My Adventures in the Commune Ernest Alfred Vizetelly NF Research: Vizetelly was a journalist living in Paris during the 1871 Commune
Grace Note: In Hildegard’s Shadow P.J. Parsons ER A novel based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen
Jul A Most Extraordinary Pursuit Juliana Gray (Beatriz Williams) LR Excellent; strong female character, witty dialogue, romance, and many twists and turns
Katherine Anya Seton ER 14th century story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt; A favourite of so many readers, I decided to reread it.
The Private Lives of the Impressionists Sue Roe NF More research on 19th century France
The Hotel on Place Vendome Tilar Mazzeo NF A interesting look at the history of Hotel Ritz in Paris and its role during WWII
Aug Belgravia Julien Fellowes GR Julien Fellowes wrote Downton Abbey – need I say more?
The Mapmakers Children Sarah McCoy GR Dual timeline mystery of the underground railway; one timeline is much better than the other
The Lake House Kate Morton ER Another dual timeline mystery; excellent except for the ending
Clementine Sonia Parnell NF Excellent account of the life of Clementine Churchill; reads like a story
Sept The Other Daughter Lauren Willig LR Very enjoyable; after her mother’s death a woman discovers that her father is still very much alive
In the Skin of a Lion Michael Ondaatje GR Beautiful writing but a very unusual story
Oct Under the Sugar Sun Jennifer Hallock LR A schoolmarm, a sugar baron, a soldier – set in the Philippine-American war; predictable
The Shadow Queen Rebecca Dean NMT The most disappointing aspect of this novel is that it ends just as the relationship between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII begins
Nov Madame Presidentess Nicole Evelina NMT The life of Victoria Woodhull; too much detail and melodrama for my taste
Dec Christmas Bells Jennifer Chiaverini DNF Dual timeline story based on Longfellow’s poem Christmas Bells; IMHO the story was slow and the present day timeline did not work
Alvar The Kingmaker Annie Whitehead GR 10th century England in the turmoil of changing kings; not quite finished

You might be interested in previous lists from 2014 and 2015:

A Year of Reading 2015 – Part 1 and Part 2

A Year of Reading 2014 – Part 1 and Part 2

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Bookclub selections for next season

Red-wineMonday night was planning night at the Toronto book club where I’ve been a member for at least fifteen years. We have a tried and true process of nominating books, then gathering with suitable refreshments to discuss, debate and then vote for our preferences. The list included 18 possibilities and with only 9 meetings we had to trim it in half.

After a little more than hour, we came up with the following list and treated ourselves to another glass of wine.

  • Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell – a biography of Clementine Churchill
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a story of love and race centred around a young man and woman from Nigeria
  • Submission by Amy Waldman – an anonymous architect creates a winning design for the 9/11 memorial and the discovery that he is Muslim has all sorts of consequences
  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje – a love story set in 1920s Toronto by the acclaimed author of The English Patient
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – a book store owner finds renewed meaning in his life
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk – a woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course
  • Paris Reborn by Stephane Kirkland – the rebuilding of Paris during the time of Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann (my recommendation :-))
  • Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan – a biography of Svetlana Stalin’s tragic life
  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder – a gripping story of life and corruption at the highest levels of Russian government

It promises to be an eclectic and intriguing season of reading with several of historical interest!

What’s your book club reading?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016.

Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.