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hello all, after having read all the reviews about the book anil's ghost i ,myself thoght its my duty to add some opinoins about the book that i loved so much. i am a srilankan .girl of 20. i think i am more close to the story than anyone else because i have experienced all the exciting moments in the story. author has vividly desceribed the story of war in srilanka rather the consequences of it on people and society.it carries another a story that of anil who is a representitive of srilankans who live in abroad.the theme of alienation which means anil canot find her place both in her native country and in abroad is strongly highlighted here.its is the echo.suffering of authors inner soul ,its his passion for motherland ,its his desire ti see paece on this beautiful island.thanx
Michael Ondaatje is the author of The English Patient, a book that became a major film. I'm not sure why I have never read the book, maybe it was one of those periods when I was working my way through a different genre. A native of Sri Lanka where this current book is based, the author moved to Canada in 1962, and has gone on to write and publish both prose and poetry. My copy of this book was published in the year 2000, following seven years of meticulous research into the period from the mid 1980's to the early 1990's when the author's home country was reeling from civil wars and incidents of brutal murder and the genocide of a particular group of people, the Tamils. I know that most reader's might decide not to read any further, knowing this is going to be one of those "deep" books, but I would ask you to suspend judgement for a short while. Can I bring any new insight to this book, when it's already been reviewed? I would like to think so in the light of a new year and a different perspective to the others. My copy was a gift from my daughter who knows that I like a challenging read in amongst my favourite horror stories and science fiction.
The plot can be described as deceptively simple, or complex, depending on how it is approached. I knew that it would take a lot of concentration, so I kept this back until I could read it in two sittings. The woman of the title, Anil, a forensic anthropologist, returns to her native country after 15 years of living in Britain and America. A representative of a civil rights movement, she is to be paired with an archaeologist, Mr Sarath Diyasena as a token gesture of putting names to the many bodies and skeletons brutally killed in the war. There is no given time period although I would guess from reading the book it is around the late stages of the war, as further atrocities carry on throughout the story. Anil is aware that her work might be hampered by warring factions, but she is also unable to fully trust her partner, Sarath.
Trust begins gradually as amongst a group of four skeletons found in a prehistorical burial site, one is definitely a modern find...a body that bears the marks of torture before death. If Anil can identify this corpse and bring it to the attention of the authorities then she feels this one name can stand in some way for a collective group of victims that may never be given a name or a true burial.
Constantly in trouble with the authorities, can Anil ever bring a semblance of peace to a people whose sons, husbands, and lovers is now just a memory, a ghost of a person?
The author writes with a delicate touch, the prose more like poetry in many parts, yet he does give the reader a subtle look into the lives of his characters. Anil herself is restless, edgy, sometimes at war with both herself and the world around her. Sarath is enigmatic, a distinguished pupil of a great teacher, now reduced to a self-inflicted exile in the Grove of Ascetics. He appears to have a certain amount of power and yet he steers a careful course at all times. In contrast his doctor brother, Gamini, is living on the edge of sanity, his days and nights spent in treating the human debris that become the victims of the continuing war. Fuelled by speed and unable to sleep properly, he seems the opposite of his brother, but appearances are as deceptive as the land itself.
In fact it's in the descriptive passages of people and places that Ondaatje excels. From the shattered bones of a victim to a leaf in the wind blowing across a landscape of great beauty, he takes us on a journey into the heart of a mystery. How can such timeless civilisations living in a land where old bones mix with new, bear to go about their daily lives?
This is the land where the monks walk in the footsteps of Buddha, the enlightened one. Like it's earlier counterpart, Vietnam, one can imagine the silence of daily life shattered by bombs and land mines. Unfortunately that is as far as our Western minds can take us. It's a pity as I always feel that I'm missing something beautifully poignant, but just out of reach.
The plaudits for this book are rapturous, but I wonder whether, within the words lies a real understanding of what the author wants us to see?
I suspect that in the end it all comes down to a few bare sentences.?
"-in the hospitality of war we left them their dead to remember us by. But here there was no such gesture to the families of the dead, not even the information of who the enemy was."
At 307 pages this would not normally be a long book. However it needs time to take in and I found that sometimes I was re-reading a passage. Therefore only recommended to dedicated readers.
I don't know how much mine cost, but the paperback versions are available from £2.02 on Amazon. I wouldn't expect to find this in a charity bookshop, but it's worth looking in 2nd hand stores.
© Lisa Fuller 2008.
It wasn't long after I had fallen in love with Ondaatje's big hit best seller "The English Patient", when I saw this book in the new arrivals at the library, and I grabbed it right away. As the title of this op already tells you, I wasn't in the least bit disappointed. In fact, after I had finished reading the library copy, I went straight out and bought a copy because I couldn't stand not having this one on my shelf. That's how much I liked, or rather loved this book!
A quick overview of the story - Anil Tissera is a forensic archiologist who was born in Sri Lanka (where Ondaatje himself comes from). After having been an ex-patriot for about 15 years, she is called by a human rights comission to investigate a grave site. What she finds there, and the colleagues that she works with there, gets her tangled into a web of conspiracy and intrigue over the bones of a person she calls "Sailor" who she believes was a victim of the civil unrest during the 1980's and 1990's in that country.
What impresses me most about this book is how Ondaatje is able to use language in such an artful way. His seemingly simple style is deceptively poetic, and we are drawn into Anil's life and experiences with glimpses from her past that build the character into one so well rounded that we feel we could almost pick her out in a crowd. Ondaatje is a master story-teller in that he uses brief descriptions of action, interspersed with flashback and thought processes to tell the story for him. While some might find this style sounds slightly disjointed and choppy, Ondaatje makes it flow like silk. And this makes this novel very, very readable - so much so that you may want to read it all again as soon as you've finished it the first time.
We are also caught up by tiny bits of information which give extensive insight into the character. For instance, early in the story we find that Anil isn't the name this woman was given at birth, but rather one she "took" from her brother. Apparently the name Anil isn't a Sri Lankan name for a boy at all, but that the sound of the name so appealed to her and her stubborness was such that when she decided to be called Anil, the world accepted this without much of a bother. We immediately can understand from this story what it is that makes Anil such a special type of person. We then find, as the story unfolds, that her actions are totally characteristic of someone who would do such a thing.
I should mention that the ghost in the title "Anil's Ghost" does not referr to a dead Anil. Instead, the word ghost is (if I recall correctly) not ever used even once in the book. So who is this ghost that is haunting Anil? That question has many answers. It could be the ghost of "Sailor" - the victim she's trying to find some modicom of justice for. It could be the ghost of her past - the one she left behind when she left Sri Lanka. It could be the mysterious lover that she left behind or the mysteries underneath the surface of the local man she must work with. Any, and maybe all of these could be considered correct.
Ondaatje is able to totally identify with this fascinating female character and bring her to life. It is very rare indeed that a male author can do such a good job with a female protaganist. And in truth, this story is almost totally Anil's story. Some might say that this is so overly true that the other characters are less filled out. I really don't believe that the more minor characters being less developed actually detract from this story.
The only thing that I might slightly conceed as being a drawback is that the book isn't a "feel good" uplifting story, and some people might find it a tad depressing. I didn't, but that may just be me (and I do live in an area of the world that is pretty depressing to begin with, so by comparison... ).
In conclusion, I would say that if you're looking to read a book that will captivate you and tell you a story about a time and place that you've probably never read about before, this is certainly the book for you. What else can I say but when I finished reading this book, I was spellbound by it so much that I couldn't start another novel for at least two days afterwards. So yes, Ondaatje did it again.
Thanks for reading!
Davida Chazan © September 2002 - updated January, 2006
Available at Amazon.co.uk for £6.39 for the Paperback (used and new from £0.01) - 320 pages. Published by Picador.
i think i must be stupid. the critics raved about this book, but i found it irksome, over ambitious and not up to the author's previous standard. anil is an unsympathetic character, and i began to hate her. she has few human connections and has just left a relationship which we are told about but the relevance of which is unclear. she was a swimmer. apparently. great. the book is set against the background of what is essentially a pointless war, which only highlights the pointlessness of the book itself. if someone were to ask me what the book was about, id be pushed to tell them. i suppose its message is that of tragedy and woe, but in so many forms that it looses meaning. i disliked this book, found it lacked cohesion and sense, and found that the only sympathetic character was that of the minor character, the doctor, brother of the archeologyst. and what the hell was that monk bit about?
The newest novel by the author of The English Patient, Anil's Ghost is a carefully crafted story, in which Ondaatje invokes the personal ghosts of his own childhood in Sri Lanka as well as the collective ghosts of a country torn apart by civil war. The writer gives no historical background for the period of war in which the story is set, but this serves to focus the reader on the emotions of the characters, and enhances rather than detracts from the flow of the novel. As the general population rarely know of the politics behind a war, so too the reader is forced to experience their moments of tragedy and loss without ever fully understanding the reason why these things are happening. As ever with Ondaatje, the style of writing and the language used are the highlights of the work; the lyrical beauty of the novel borrows from Ondaatje's vast background in poetry, but never sounds forced or pretentious.
I found "Anil's Ghost" a flawed and failed attempt as a novel: neither its form nor its structure seemed capable of holding its material together, and the result is a fractured and inchoate narration that does not flow nor move nor urge the reader onward. The prose is often beautiful, but it alone cannot carry the action, which at time appears pointless and contrived. The novel's background is a multifaceted civil war which may very well have no meaning other than the great brutality it engenders; still, readers need to know something about the war's underlying issues if they are to become interested and emotionally engaged in its narration. The book does not inform about such issues. In the foreground is Anil, the young Sri Lankan expatriate who returns as a visiting forensic anthropologist. She, too, is incompletely sketched and rendered, and thus does not become alive for the reader, requiring the frequent hand of the writer to provide the motivation for her actions and her thoughts and her emotions
A tale set in Sri Lanka by the Booker Prize-winning author of 'The English Patient'.