Book 1 – The stone carvers by Jane urquart
Book 2 – Three day road trip by joseph boysen
Book 3 in The Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Book 4 The Tin flute by gabrielleroy
Write a book review for any book in the list.
Only take 2-3 themes from each book. Then do your research and write.
Book summaries should not exceed 10%. Research should make up the remaining 90%.
Write about canadian history.
Book Review: InThe Skin Of A Lion by Michael Ondaatje
The Skin Of The Lion: An Attempt to Write Alternative History
In the Skin of a Lion Michael Ondaatje provides insight into the working classes in Canada during the 20th century. He explores various characters who live in various parts of the economy and society.
Patrick Lewis is the author who shares his experiences and gives insight into the working conditions that dominated Toronto in the 1920s, and later the 1930s.
There are also a few characters in the novel who offer diverse perspectives on the problems facing the workers’ community.
The novel’s diverse viewpoints help to illustrate that the working class can not be one community.
The community is made up of immigrants from all over the world, and is therefore culturally and language-diverse.
Historically, it is inaccurate to consider the working class as a single, indivisible entity.
Ondaatje’s narrative is richly colored, with multiple voices that challenge historiographic assumptions. Totalizing categories are often the basis of historical narratives.
The novel’s plot is not structured in a linear fashion and is marked by frequent temporal or spatial shifts. Flashbacks are used as well as abrupt leaps into the past.
This allows the narrative to feel fluid, in contrast to historical history which is rigid and cannot be altered by imagination.
This helps the novel highlight the gaps found in historical narratives.
These gaps are not addressed by historiography, which tries to be objective. This only shows the incompleteness of the whole.
By being intentionally subjective in its nature, the novel, on the other side, emphasizes the equal importance personal narratives as well as memories in the reconstruction of history.
In the novel, sensory perception is given a lot more weight than history writing.
In the Skin of the Lion, history ignores the personal and emotional aspects of the past.
History will know the facts about the death of the workers who built the Prince Edward Viaduct.
The personal and emotional memories that were associated with those deaths often go unremembered.
The candlelight march by workers to pay homage to their fallen colleagues on the night of the inauguration day of the bridge is a memory that few people will remember.
Officially, the cyclist will be the first person to walk on the bridge. However, posterity won’t be able to remember what happened the night before.
As extensions of the tools used to build the bridge, so too does the description of the workers.
This description allows readers to experience the past in a subjective way.
It stimulates the imagination and allows the mind to consider aspects of the past that were completely overlooked.
According to historical narratives, a large portion of the working class were immigrants who could not speak English and most of them were illegal.
They were therefore likely to have difficulty communicating or integrating with mainstream national narratives.
The practical implications of these phenomena won’t be known.
The story of Nicholas Temelcoff from Macedonia, a Macedonian worker in Canada, gives the reader a glimpse into what it was like to be living in Canada in 1918 while not speaking English.
Nicholas, who was 26 years old at the time, attended school. His singing of songs in the language is a way to recreate the past through the eyes and experiences of someone who lived it.
This adds more authenticity to the narrative.
The author also shows how workers can often overcome language barriers and still be able to understand each other despite not having a common language.
Even though they spoke different languages, Nicholas and the nun were able understand each other in the pub. This is just one example that shows how shared experiences can foster mutual understanding in spite of not having a medium of communication.
Despite their internal differences, the workers were able to build a solid foundation of solidarity based on shared economic and socio-economic interests.
They formed a collective consciousness despite their status in the social hierarchy through a clandestine meeting at Waterworks.
Patrick’s experience shows that these meetings weren’t strictly political, but were used to entertain.
Entertainment was also heavily politicized as the puppet shows.
The police handcuff the human puppet that represents the immigrant worker not speaking the language.
The fact that the worker does not know the language has symbolic significance.
It was extremely unlikely that the worker’s voice would be heard.
Spivak defines him as a subaltern, and he is therefore unable to speak.
Ondaatje, however, makes it a point of exploring those voices from the past that were suppressed by the mainstream even though they aren’t registered in the mainstream.
By demonstrating that class identity isn’t the only identity of the workers, he brings up a lot more grey areas.
Cultural, language, and food play a significant role in shaping workers’ identities.
Macedonian immigrant have established bars and shops to suit their needs.
They have created colonies in the spirit of their homeland.
The workers are assigned roles according to their specialization in the workplace.
Nicholas, for instance, is known as the worker who can safely hang from a rope while working.
He cannot be replaced by anyone.
Even though workers form a collective to voice their political and socio-economic interests, they are composed of thousands of individuals who have come together against institutional oppression.
These workers also challenge the notions of nationhood, and nation building.
Although most of them are illegal immigrants and are therefore not citizens of Canada their efforts are crucial in building the new nation.
Illegal immigrants are hired by the thousands to build bridges, buildings, or other structures.
The question is raised as to whether illegal immigrants’ contributions in building Canada are invariably recognized as Canadian citizens, despite not being accepted by authorities.
Problematizing this idea further is the fact that many immigrants set up their communities in the same way as their homeland.
How do you define the space of the Macedonian colonies?
How does one define the space of the Macedonian colony?
Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities points out that nations aren’t made up of homogeneous communities which form a cohesive unit based on their commonalities.
Nation are formed by diverse communities that believe they can form one united whole because of their shared history.
Anderson’s theory can be used to explain how workers eventually emerge as a single, united force in the face oppression they are all being subject to.
The novel anticipates the integration and inclusion of workers in the larger Canadian nationhood. This will bring in all of Canada’s diverseities, and help to create an inclusive society.
But, it does not necessarily mean that this grand vision is not possible.
Many workers were forced to leave their jobs, and the grand facade the government presents hides a painful past.
The encounter between Patrick (and Harris) opens up the possibility of dialogue between these two factions. Harris’ treatment Patrick, even though he had broken in to his home, shows that he is open to finding a solution.
Ondaatje views the nation as a dynamic, evolving entity that is constantly changing rather than a static and unchanging entity.
The notion of nationhood is subject to constant change through the inclusion of diverse voices.
Ondaatje envisions Canada as a nation that is not limited to cultural or linguistic determinants.
It is built on mutual understanding and brotherhood through constant exchange and dialogue.
It is an ever-evolving category that resists any attempt to define it. Once the idea of nationhood has been reduced to a defined definition, it will cease be inclusive.
Reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism: Imagined communities
Verso Books 2006.
Spivak, “Can the subaltern speak?”
Harvard University Press 1999.
The workers’ revolt in Canada 1917-1925.
University of Toronto Press, 1998.
Nagata Judith A.
“Adaptation, integration and socialization of working-class Greek immigrants in Toronto, Canada: a situational approach.”
International Migration Review 4, No.
In the Skin of a Lion.