This is not an easy book to review. We come to a Michael Ondaatje book with a lot of expectation and for me the book met up with all my expectations - but I am a Sri Lankan and I knew the background in which the book was set. I feel that the background to the story may be a bit fragmented and may not be specific enough for someone without a knowledge of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has been in the limelight mainly because of the Tamil separatist war which lasted for 30 years and was a most bloody conflict. Anil's Ghost deals mainly with an insurgency against the Government by forces which meant to overthrow what they thought was a corrupt goverment. How they went about it and the thousands they murdered in order to try to lay down their rule of law (they did not succeed) by a means of fear and oppression is the greater part of the story.
The book confused me from the first page! Anil is a boy's name and when you start the story Anil is a female forensic pathologist. She has been away from the country of her birth for fifteen years and is now highly qualified in her field and coming as a representative for a Human Rights organization based in Geneva to check and do a "report" on the situation in Sri Lanka. She is teamed with Sarath an archaelogist who represents the government (I thought it a strange combination) but as the story goes on it is revealed firstly how Anil got her name and secondly why Sarath was the chosen representative from the Government.
I loved the writing. The descriptive nature of the story set mainly in remote areas of Sri Lanka was breath taking. I haven't been to many of the places mentioned though I've learnt about them in my history lessons but they were brought to life by Ondaatje's writing. You also learn a lot from his writing and it shows the extent of his research to make sure that the book is as meticulously authentic as possible.
Each character in the story is different. They are also in so many layers which peel off one at a time to reveal so many different persona.
The story is haunting and lingers with you long after the book is over. A story of death, evil, superstition and traditional practices. Despite the lack of light in the story, it is a very compelling one. Couldn't put this down and finished it in one go.