In The Skin Of A Lion is the second novel by Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje, originally published in 1987. I first read this novel about nine years ago and it became one of my favourites. It was for a 20th Century Canadian Literature class I was taking, where I read some really amazing books. Now, almost a decade later, I’ve read each of Michael Ondaatje’s novels and though I’ve enjoyed them, his first two are still my favourites.
I love that this is a story takes place in a city I know. The main setting is Toronto, during the 1930s and I get to read about familiar landmarks being built, like the Bloor Street Viaduct. Ondaatje takes real events and weaves the fictional life of Patrick Lewis into them. It is brilliant and detailed. I also enjoy that a large part of the plot is the plight of immigrant workers, they were paid very little for dangerous work and were often not credited for the work they did. Patrick’s third meeting with Alice takes place at a rally, which different groups of immigrants hold in order to discuss their plight. Though born in Ontario, Patrick and Alice identify with the immigrants and live among them.
In The Skin Of A Lion has been described as post-modern, and in my opinion it is. I know that can put some people off. Don’t let it. This is a great novel with an incredible cast of characters. I’ve been focusing a lot of character development lately and this novel is a great example of how even secondary and minor characters can grow and change over the course of a novel. In The Skin Of A Lion remains one of my favourites.