Summary and book reviews of Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

Anil's Ghost

by Michael Ondaatje

Anil's Ghost
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2000, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2001, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka's landscape and ancient civilization, Anil's Ghost is a literary spellbinder.

With his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje gives us a work displaying all the richness of imagery and language and the piercing emotional truth that we have come to know as the hallmarks of his writing.

The time is our own time. The place is Sri Lanka, the island nation formerly known as Ceylon, off the southern tip of India, a country steeped in centuries of cultural achievement and tradition--and forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of civil war and the consequences of a country divided against itself.

Into this maelstrom steps a young woman, Anil Tissera, born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to work with local officials to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island.

Bodies are discovered. Skeletons. And particularly one, nicknamed 'Sailor.' What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity, about the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past--all propelled by a riveting mystery.

Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka's landscape and ancient civilization, Anil's Ghost is a literary spellbinder--the most powerful novel we have yet had from Michael Ondaatje.

Chapter One

She arrived in early March, the plane landing at Katunayake airport before the dawn. They had raced it ever since coming over the west coast of India, so that now passengers stepped onto the tarmac in the dark.

By the time she was out of the terminal the sun had risen. In the West she'd read, The dawn comes up like thunder, and she knew she was the only one in the classroom to recognize the phrase physically. Though it was never abrupt thunder to her. It was first of all the noise of chickens and carts and modest morning rain or a man squeakily cleaning the windows with newspaper in another part of the house.

As soon as her passport with the light-blue UN bar was processed, a young official approached and moved alongside her. She struggled with her suitcases but he offered no help.



'How long has it been? You were born here, no?'

'Fifteen years.'

'You still speak Sinhala?'

'A little. Look, do you mind if I don't ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, his first novel since the internationally acclaimed and Booker Prize winner The English Patient. A literary spellbinder which unfolds against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka's landscape and ancient civilization, Anil's Ghost is a story about love, family, identity, the unknown enemy, and the quest to unlock the hidden past--a powerful story propelled by a riveting mystery.

Anil Tissera is a forensic anthropologist who returns to Sri Lanka, the island of her birth, after fifteen years in the West. As a member of an international ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Salon - Gary Kamiya

Anil's Ghost ... is the most restrained and plot-driven of his books. This description is relative, of course Even a subdued Ondaatje is more of a shape shifter and trickster than 99 percent of his peers. The polyphonic elements -- the use of multiple stories of equal or almost equal weight -- that are an Ondaatje trademark are still here, as are the majestic set passages, but for the first time in his career a single story forms the skeleton of the book.

Time Out New York - Anderson Tepper

As in The English Patient, Ondaatje seamlessly melds historical esoterica with flashing insights into the emotional worlds of his characters, setting all this against a backdrop of trauma and triage, both personal and social.

USA Today - Robert Allen Papinchak

Anil's Ghost is virtually flawless, with impeccable regional details, startlingly original characters and a compelling literary plot that borders on the thriller.

Publishers Weekly

[O]ndaatje's novel satisfies one of the most exalted purposes of fiction to illuminate the human condition through pity and terror. It may well be the capstone of his career.

Wall Street Journal - Elizabeth Bukowski

Anil's Ghost has a collage-like structure that hops among scenes from the past and present of different characters' lives. The fragmented narrative heightens the sense that these characters only halfway inhabit their lives

Reader Reviews

Henriette

Anil's ghost
I really liked this book, it is not an easy book to read but I found it very moving. Its prose is clipped, clear and poetic at the same time with a great depth of feeling. It did bring tears to my eyes and should be read a second time to bring out ...   Read More

Antoinette-Marie

Discovery
I loved the book, I loved its atmosphere, bit mysterious,bit real, I loved its ending [comment removed due to plot spoiler]. The writting is elegant, poetic.I had to research about Sri Lanka in order to be able to travel with the characters and that ...   Read More

Eric

Wow. I have to say that it is slow, and does jump around alot, but it was amazing. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters and places, but the ending is powerful and moving. For anyone that can manage his style, I would absolutely ...   Read More

literate-world

Entralling, yet difficult read
This is one of my favorite books. I have to admit it is not a vacation book from either a writing viewpoint or from a subject matter. The atmosphere of Sri Lanka during that time is hauntingly brought alive in Ondaatje's prose.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Anil's Ghost, try these:

  • Island of a Thousand Mirrors jacket

    Island of a Thousand Mirrors

    by Nayomi Munaweera

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A stunning literary debut of two young women on opposing sides of the devastating Sri Lankan Civil War—winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize for Asia, longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize

  • The Illusion of Separateness jacket

    The Illusion of Separateness

    by Simon Van Booy

    Published 2014

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    This gripping, emotional story intertwines the stories of several compelling characters - one by one, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, they discover the vital parts they have played in each other's lives, a realization that shatters the illusion of their separateness.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Book That Matters Most
    The Book That Matters Most
    by Ann Hood
    BookBrowse First Impression reviewers appreciated the innovative structure of The Book That Matters ...
  • Book Jacket: The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
    The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
    by Scott Stambach
    BookBrowse First Impression reviewers were uniformly impressed by this difficult yet heartwarming ...
  • Book Jacket: Boy Erased
    Boy Erased
    by Garrard Conley
    Growing up in rural Arkansas, Garrard Conley did not quite fit the mold of his strait-laced, ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
    by Scott Stambach

    "An auspicious, gut-wrenching, wonderful debut." - Kirkus, starred review

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
    by Bryn Greenwood

    A memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Lady Cop Makes Trouble

The Kopp Sisters Return!

One of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs returns in another gripping adventure based on fact.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Manners M (T) M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.