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Pickle Me This

June 21, 2006

In the Skin of a Lion

I just finished rereading In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje. I read this book first in 1998 for school, and I enjoyed it very much. I am a bit disappointed in the rereading experience however, as the book lacked a certain solidity that I have come to appreciate in novels, and it was not completely compelling. Having the blanks filled in for me (unlike in my first read) did not make for a more interesting reading experience, I thought. And also, regrettably, I have been all over the place lately and this book did not receive all the attention it should have.
It’s a beautiful book though, and the story is interesting. It’s full of facts (though a bit too full at times?) and geography. It is unique, important, and astounding, and I still like it. I still loved the love story too, significantly. I have found that I approach love stories quite differently since growing up and actually being in love rather than unsimply longing for it, as in days of yore. I used to like romantic books and movies for vicarious reasons, but now that I like real life, a lot of romance bores me. The story of Patrick and Alice Gull was beautiful, however. But for a different reason than it used to be. (And it is charting these changes that is one of the most fabulous parts of this rereading experience).
There is a passage in this book beginning with “He had always wanted to know her when she was old…” and ending with the “Now there is a moat around her he will never cross again..” paragraph. I remember typing this part of the book out back in days of angst, and pasting it into some scrapbook. The depth of Patrick Lewis’s longing for Alice Gull was the most lovely thing I could imagine then, but now that I am older and life is different, this passage resonates with me for other reasons. It’s the loss, rather than the love, that affects me. To actually lose that person you wanted to be old with, which is everything I fear now, which is the knot of all my happiness. I loved the line later, “He has come across a love story. This is only a love story. He does not wish for plot and all its consequences. Let me stay in this field with Alice Gull….” which is the most perfect expression. Which represents how far I may have come from melodrama. Indeed, I read, let me stay in this field.

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