the observer Sat 23 August 2008
Damaged souls. Disjointed narratives. Traumas that can never be erased. Yep, it's another novel from Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient. Anna and her adopted sister Claire are raised on a Californian farm in the 1970s. When their father stumbles on Anna having sex with the young farmhand, Coop, he tries to kill her lover, and Anna flees for ever. Through the characters' subsequent splintered lives Ondaatje impresses on us how we all 'live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories'. Infuriatingly, though, his characters keep telling us the same thing. 'It is the hunger, what we do not have, that holds us together,' Anna observes sententiously at one point. As sleek as Ondaatje's writing is, his novel largely neglects its central event, and leaves us wishing for weightier emotional material.