Anil's Ghost

Ondaatje, Michael

Book - 2000
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Anil's Ghost
The time is our own time. The place is Sri Lanka, the island nation formerly known as Ceylon, off the southern tip of India, a country 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 Tessera, born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, 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.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780375410536
Characteristics: 311 p. ;,22 cm.


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Feb 06, 2015
  • booksphinx rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

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.

Dec 28, 2012
  • WormsBookChief rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

We tried to read this as a book club, and most of our membership could not get into it, or finish it. Only 2 did. The characters were interesting, but the plot moved along slowly and some called it tedious. It just wasn't all that interesting. Best of luck to those wanting to try it.

Jan 29, 2012
  • Pisinga rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

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.

Jun 02, 2011
  • RenGrrl rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Fans of Ondaatje will enjoy this.

Jan 06, 2011
  • Books100 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

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.

Jun 22, 2010
  • Spillie rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A challenging book but a very good read.

Nov 05, 2007
  • reviewer rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

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


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