Archive for the ‘scholars’ Category


divisadero.jpgI finished Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero a little while ago; I guess the reason I’ve been slow in writing the review is that I’m ambivalent. When I first started it I was thinking I’d stumbled upon one of those rarities – a book I was going to remember for years to come. It begins with the story of Anna, a teen living with her father, adopted sister and a farm-hand named Coop, on a barren patch of ranch land in central California. The dynamics of the family are a curiosity. When Anna’s mother was in the hospital giving birth they came across the orphaned baby Claire, whom they adopted and brought home with their own baby. Coop came to them as another orphan, a boy rescued from a farm where he was an abused farm-hand. When we enter the story the taciturn Coop is just a few years older than the 16-year-old girls. He is not quite a member of the family but the girls dote on him, especially Anna. When Anna and Coop form a sexual relationship, they encounter the wrath of Anna’s usually emotionally distant father — he nearly beats Coop to death. This is the precipia event scatters the family in different directions.

So far so good. The characters are fascinating, and we want to know what becomes of them. We follow Coop as he becomes a first class ‘cardsharp’, (I always thought it was cardshark – literature saves me from my ignorance yet again), Claire adopts a lonely career in SF and Anna launches a scholarly investigation into a French writer by living in his home in France. It is the latter plotline that leads to my ambivalence. Anna begins researching the life of Lucien, and soon Lucien’s story has insidiously taken over the plot. Well, I shouldn’t use the word insidious, because this is an equally good story. But what of Coop? What of Clarie? What of the love between Anna and Coop? I felt bereft when I realized that the author would not be returning to the characters who originally drew me in.

I don’t think I’m overstating to say that it is a sin to pique someone’s curiosity and then leave them no recourse for satisfying it. And yet I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book. It’s a great story – er… stories.


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