The English Patient, The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife and Handwriting are the only Ondaatje books I’ve ever read. I enjoyed them. I like the lyrical nature of Ondaatje’s writing.
Divisadero fits the bill perfectly. Ondaatje is telling two stories, a modern-day love story and a forgotten love story—I suppose both are forgotten in some ways.
The first story is Anna’s. In the 1970s in northern California, Anna lives with her sister and father on a farm. The hired hand, Cooper, is also part of the family. All three children, Anna, her sister and Coop, have lost their mothers. It’s a strange world. The mothering nature is missing. There are unspoken rules. The girls are competitive for affection. It unwinds when Coop and Anna begin a tryst that is discovered by her father. Anna runs away and keeps running from love for the rest of the story.
The second story is Lucien Segura’s. In a much earlier time in south central France, Lucien lives with his mother, and next door lives Marie-Neige. She moves there with her husband, a much older husband. Lucien and Marie-Neige grow close as they grow up. It’s the turn of the century and times are different than in 1970, yet the complications of loving someone forbidden to you are much the same.
Lucien’s story is much stronger than Anna’s. Although I enjoyed the writing of both, Lucien’s story is almost mystical. It’s more suck in my imagination than Anna’s story.
I wonder if all of Ondaatje’s love stories are ones of lost, discord and memory.
Find out more about Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje.
UPDATE: Don mentions in the comments that Random House has a podcast featuring Michael Ondaatje and his M&S editor talking about Divisadero.