'During certain hours, at certain years in our lives, we see ourselves as remnants from the earlier generations that were destroyed...I think all of our lives have been terribly shaped by what went on before us.'
Twenty-five years after leaving his native Sri Lanka for the cool winters of Ontario, a chaotic dream of tropical heat and barking dogs pushes Michael Ondaatje to travel back home and revisit a childhood and a family he never fully understood. Along with his siblings and children, Ondaatje gathers rumours, anecdotes, poems, records and memories to piece together this fragmented portrayal of his family's past, his father's destructive alcoholism and the colourful stories and secrets of ancestors both disgraced and adored throughout centuries of Sri Lankan society.
In an exotic, evocative portrait of the heat, wildlife, sounds and silences of the Sri Lankan landscape, Ondaatje combines vivid recreations of a privileged, eccentric older generation with a deeply personal reconciliatory journey in which he explores his own ghosts, and how his family's extraordinary history continues to influence his life.
'Michael Ondaatje is here at his agile and evocative best. His latest book is an account of an exotic and outrageous family, a true story with all of the most exciting qualities of fiction. Brightly coloured, sweet and painful, bloody-minded and otherworldly, it achieves the status of legend' Margaret Atwood 'An outstandingly evocative, semi-autobiographic account of a journey back to the beginning, to Ceylon where Ondaatje was born into a privileged group of mixed Dutch, Tamil and Sinhalese origins. Created from asides, snapshots, poems, glimpses in every way unorthodox and incomplete, it falls magically on the page with all the grace of a billowing, seamless dress. Like all classic writing the motion of this book lingers on, like the movement of a boat, long after the last pages' New Statesman 'A beautiful, luscious book. Michael Ondaatje has depicted his extraordinary family, who delighted in masks and costumes and love affairs that "rainbowed over marriages" in the kind of language that makes glory of their lives. He has gone on a poet's journey to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and the reader who travels with him enters a truly magical world' Maxine Hong Kingston 'Eloquent, oblique, witty, full of light and feeling .Ondaatje's knowledge of the fragility and luck of life is very clear. So, too, is the grace and originality of his prose' New Yorker