06 December, 2011

Anil's Ghost

Title: Anil's Ghost
Author: Michael Ondaatje
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - lent by a friend

From Goodreads: Drawing on Ondaatje's own Sri Lankan heritage, wonderfully explored in his travel narrative Running in the Family, Anil's Ghost is located in contemporary Sri Lanka, in the midst of interminable internecine civil war between government forces, separatist Tamils and antigovernment insurgents.
The novel's action revolves around Anil Tissera, a young forensic anthropologist, born in Sri Lanka but educated in Europe and America, who "had courted foreignness", and "was at ease whether on the Bakerloo line or on the highways around Santa Fe". Anil returns to the country of her birth after 15 years on a United Nations sponsored investigation into the escalating number of politically motivated murders engulfing the island. As Anil begins to realise the scale of the murder and horror which her investigations reveal, it becomes clear that "the darkest Greek tragedies were innocent compared with what was happening here". She reluctantly teams up with Sarath Diyasena, "the archaeologist selected by the government" to investigate a particularly sensitive murder; skeletons discovered buried in the Bandarawela caves, one of the most archaeologically sensitive sites in the entire country. One skeleton in particular fascinates both Anil and Sarath. Simply known as "Sailor", the quest for the skeleton's identity sucks both Anil and Sarath into the terrifying heart of darkness which makes up contemporary Sri Lankan politics. Ondaatje reflects upon the ancient history of Sri Lanka through the fragments of history and identity that Anil and Sarath uphold in the face of the murder and chaos which surrounds them.


What I thought: This was lent to me by a friend ages ago and it has taken me awhile to get to it. I regret it took me so long. Anil's Ghost is a beautifully written tale of a country whose landscape is stunning, but whose politics can be lethal. Within this story, Ondaatje has built two main characters who want to discover the truth, but for who the revealing of the truth will lead to different effects on their lives. Anil can only see the need to let the truth out, highlight the tragedies happening in the country of her birth. Saraath on the other hand can see the danger in releasing the information.
Ondaatje manages to build suspense and a feeling of danger in this book without throwing it in your face. There are no car chases, no attempted abductions, no guns in faces. What there is though is an awareness that the closer they get to discovering the true identity of "Sailor" and what happened to him, the harder other forces will try to shut down their work.

Recommended for: those who like well written, suspenseful novels.

Challenges:  100+ Challenge, 

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