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4 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

In the Skin of a Lion

by

In the Skin of a Lion Cover

 

 

Excerpt

An April night in 1917. Harris and Pomphrey were on the bridge, in the dark wind. Pomphrey had turned west and was suddenly stilled. His hand reached out to touch Harris on the shoulder, a gesture he had never made before.

-- Look!

Walking on the bridge were five nuns.

Past the Dominion Steel castings wind attacked the body directly. The nuns were walking past the first group of workers at the fire. The bus, Harris thought, must have dropped them off near Castle Frank and the nuns had, with some confusion at that hour, walked the wrong way in the darkness.

They had passed the black car under the trees and talking cheerfully stepped past the barrier into a landscape they did not know existed — onto a tentative carpet over the piers, among the night labourers. They saw the fire and the men. A few tried to wave them back. There was a mule attached to a wagon. The hiss and jump of machines made the ground under them lurch. A smell of creosote. One man was washing his face in a barrel of water.

The nuns were moving towards a thirty-yard point on the bridge when the wind began to scatter them. They were thrown against the cement mixers and steam shovels, careering from side to side, in danger of going over the edge.

Some of the men grabbed and enclosed them, pulling leather straps over their shoulders, but two were still loose. Harris and Pomphrey at the far end looked on helplessly as one nun was lifted up and flung against the compressors. She stood up shakily and then the wind jerked her sideways, scraping her along the concrete and right off the edge of the bridge. She disappeared into the night by the third abutment, into the long depth of air which held nothing, only sometimes a rivet or a dropped hammer during the day.

Then there was no longer any fear on the bridge. The worst, the incredible had happened. A nun had fallen off the Prince Edward Viaduct before it was even finished. The men covered in wood shavings or granite dust held the women against them. And Commissioner Harris at the far end stared along the mad pathway. This was his first child and it had already become a murderer.

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Melsie, September 2, 2011 (view all comments by Melsie)
Beautifully written, it was a coming-of-age book for me, and I felt as though I were part of the book as I read it (over and over and over again!). It's a book that grabs you and drags you in, not letting go as you move along the paths of the various characters and all that they create and endure. Set between the 1920's and 1930's, it tells a sensual, moving, and amazingly haunting tale of men and women during the new age of construction and immigration in Toronto. The feel, and the imagery of the book is exceptional - Michael Ondaatje depicts both the amazing, and horrific situations and settings his characters encounter, and he sweeps the reader up along with them. I discovered this book in a class in college, and I have been in love with it since.
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Andrew Daily, May 10, 2007 (view all comments by Andrew Daily)
Ondaatje's "The English Patient", winner of the Booker Prize and adapted into a wildly popular (and unfairly melodramatic) movie, is his best known and most popular novel. Those who have come to love his prose, however, almost always point to "In the Skin of a Lion" as his greatest work.

It is in this book that we first meet Hannah, Hannah's father Patrick (only alluded to, in death, in "English Patient") and the thief Caravaggio. In spare, poetic prose, Ondaatje traces Patrick from his boyhood in a rural lumber camp through his life, loves, and eventual fatherhood in Toronto's immigrant community of the interwar period. In the process, through Patrick's loves, friends, job, and eventual desperate act, Ondaatje also weaves the story of Toronto's rise as a city, the joys and pains of its multi-ethnic working classes, and its history of radical politics.

"In the Skin of a Lion" is Ondaatje's finest book, and forms a pair with "The English Patient." It in truth lends "EP" a greater resonance and depth, filling in some of the allusions and passions that go unexplained in the latter novel.

It is my suspicion that Ondaatje won the Booker on the strength of this novel, and that the award to "EP" was to make up for the previous slight.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780679772668
Author:
Ondaatje, Michael
Publisher:
Vintage Books
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Toronto (ont.)
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Poor
Subject:
Toronto
Subject:
Toronto (Ont.) Fiction.
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Series Volume:
3715
Publication Date:
19970131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.09x5.27x.57 in. .46 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

In the Skin of a Lion Used Trade Paper
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$6.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679772668 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Splendidly evocative and entertaining."
"Review" by , "Beautiful — I urge you to read this book."
"Review" by , "A triumph — a powerful and revelatory accomplishment."
"Synopsis" by , 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. 256 pp.
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