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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (7,346 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Michael Ondaatje Narrator: Alan Cumming Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2000 ISBN: 9780375417306
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With his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient, Booker Prize—winning author 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.

Anil’s Ghost transports us to Sri Lanka, a country steeped in centuries of tradition, now forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of civil war. Into this maelstrom steps Anil Tissera, a young woman born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, who returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity, about the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past–a story 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–Michael Ondaatje’s most powerful novel yet.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Gorgeously exotic…. As he did in The English Patient, Mr. Ondaatje is able to commingle anguish and seductiveness in fierce, unexpected ways. The New York Times

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Luc | 2/13/2014

    " Mooi geschreven boek, dat bij mij heel wat herinneringen opwekte van onze reis in Sri Lanka en de discussies over de problematische politieke toestand daar. Heb ik vooral daarom graag gelezen... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Hayley | 1/30/2014

    " i had to read this as a prescribed text for my extension english 1 course at school, from a crime fiction perspective too. I know this book has the begginings of a cult following but i just really couldnt get into it. I am appreciative of Ondaatjes style and amazing construction and i think if i approached this book through a diffrent route, rather then being forced to read and analyse it... i possibly may have liked it... perhaps another time? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Matt Gough | 1/30/2014

    " This was the same author that wrote The English Patient, so I knew that I was in for some beautiful, poetic language. The language was there, but the plot was not. In the novel, Anil goes back to Sri Lanka as a forensic scientist. She finds a skeleton and hopes to pin the murder on the government. The book gets bogged down by the memories and nostalgia of Anil, Sarath, and the other characters. I really don't care about character's memories if it has nothing to do with the plot. This book seemed to be about the author wanting to write short, lyric memories of diverse characters without paying much attention to the development of any plot. Eh, not as good as The English Patient by a long shot. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marik Casmon | 1/22/2014

    " This is a good novel that I also might have given four stars. The writing is quite good. The setting is a civil war(s) in Sri Lanka. There are a few characters and all are well-defined, especially the heroine, a forensic detective. I felt the book built up steam as it went along until the ending which disappointed me, but would not discourage me recommending this book to others. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sorayya Khan | 1/19/2014

    " Ondaatje transports us to Sri Lanka in a time during the 1980's and 1990's when the government was embroiled in a civil war that produced a reign of terror and plenty of dead and disappeared people. Anil returns to her homeland as a forensic expert and representative of an international human rights organization. In a plot that is a bit mystery but so much more, we come to know Anil and Sarath (an archeologist), along with secondary characters like Ananda (artist extraordinaire) and Gamini (Sarath's brother and a doctor). We see the cost of the war and a chronicle of lives lived in the remains of skeletons, for example ankle bones that reveal work in mines. We see brothers torn and bound by familial love, a young woman trying to make sense of her identity and what it might mean to love, and a society charged with the fear that is essential to war. We see doctors who are forced to work for opposing sides in the war, yet go about their days saving their enemies as they would their families. Anil's Ghost paints a picture, the outlines of which are finally hazy as they blur into our notion of war and its reckoning. There are also lots of asides that are really insertions of historical facts. Did you know that if you place a stone on the earth above a ribcage of a corpse to act as a marker, it takes nine years for the stone to fall into the ribcage? There were "halls for the sick" in what is now Sri Lanka four centuries before Christ? And an archeological site in China: underneath stone slabs, rows of timber were cut and stripped as if for a floor, but it was a ceiling, and when the timber was removed, a water tomb was discovered, three pools of underground water. I don't know how Ondaatje does it, because the narrative is really a bit of a muddle. A back and forth pulled along by a moving narrative, but jumpy all the same. Do we need to know so much about Anil's one-time lover, Cullis? Or Palipana, Sarath's teacher? (The Grove of Ascetics, the section that describes Sarath and Anil meeting Palipana is beautiful, though.) Also, there are italicized sections here and there and their relevance wasn't always clear to me nor how they fit with what preceded or what followed them. But my focus on the narrative's jumpiness might be because structure fascinates me. I'm always trying to learn from how a novelist puts together a story, how it's presented to us and when the rationale isn't crystal clear, it's frustrating because I feel I'm not seeing something that I should. Ondaatje's language is beautiful and there are passages and sentences that took my breath away, not always for their beauty but for their clarity and ability to convey something profound in few words. Remembering a few: "The hospital would run out of painkillers during the first week of any offensive. You were without self in those times, lost among the screaming." "Gamini rarely saw himself from the point of view of a stranger. Though most people knew who he was, he felt he was invisible to those around him. The woman therefore slid alongside him and clattered about in the almost empty house of his heart. She became, as she had done that night of the operation, the sole accompanist to what he thought, what he worked on." "I love history, the intimacy of entering all those landscapes. Like entering a dream. Someone nudges a stone away and there's a story." "When he wrote, he slipped into the page as if it were water, and tumbled on. The writer was a tumbler. (Would he remember that?) If not, then a tinker, carrying a hundred pots and pans and bits of linoleum and wires and falconer's hoods and pencils and . . . you carried them around for years and gradually fit them into a small, modest book. The art of packing." "American movies, English books--remember how they all end?" Gamini asked that night. "The American or the Englishman gets on a plane and leaves. That's it. The camera leaves with him. He looks out of the window at Mombasa or Vietnam or Jakarta, someplace now he can look at through the clouds. The tired hero. A couple of words to the girl beside him. He's going home. So the war, to all purposes, is over. That's enough reality for the West. It's probably the history of the last two hundred years of Western political writing. Go home. Write a book. Hit the circuit." "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Britt | 1/15/2014

    " It gave me a graphic idea of the strife that went on in Sri Lanka. I was totally ignorant of it, and this book really placed me in the East, in the secret temples and forests. It had a way of transporting me, "an ignorant westerner" to the hidden places of Sri Lanka. The character could have had more vibrancy, we don't really see much of a personality, but she is certainly different, and I like that, not the stereotypical girl in any way. She is self motivated and determined. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marvin | 1/12/2014

    " A confusing story, at least in its audio version, by Jessica's favorite author, about a native Sri Lankan woman, educated in England & the US, who returns to Sri Lanka as a forensic anthropologist working for an international human rights organization to investigate human rights abuses. The personal & political didn't seem well integrated here. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 1/10/2014

    " I was unused to Ondaatje's writing style at first, and found the first 100 pages or so to be disjointed. However, the last 25 pages contained some of the most powerful and emotive writing re: Sri Lanka that I have ever read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Deepika | 1/10/2014

    " The prose is stunning and I really like the main character...I expected more from the historical fiction aspect though. In the end, I liked it but I did expect to love it more, you do need to read it slowly because the best part of the novel is the way it is written more than the actual plot. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kitty Richards | 1/10/2014

    " This book showed flashes of beauty and brilliance, but was in need of a more agressive editor "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rochelle | 12/29/2013

    " This book was outstanding. It has a dream-like quality to it as we move in and out of the consciousnesses of multiple narrators and backwards and forwards through time. A beautifully written, evocative, sad novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carly | 12/20/2013

    " This is one I fully intend to read again. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vivl | 12/17/2013

    " I didn't find myself being drawn into the flow of this one so easily as I did with The English Patient, but this is still a very moving and fascinating novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul Heather | 12/12/2013

    " warm, real - tremendously satisfying read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pilar Cuder | 12/6/2013

    " Excellent book, well written, lots of food for thought. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sara Furr | 11/30/2013

    " I "read" this as an audiobook and have been thinking about it lately whenever Sri Lanka is in the news. It was a lovely book and I think it was better to hear it than to read it, to be able to hear the way the reader spoke, the pronunciation of names and places. This book touched me deeply. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jami Donley | 9/24/2012

    " A poem set to prose. The writing is so beautiful that it takes longer to read than normal fiction--you have to read each line carefully. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Agnieszka | 8/11/2012

    " intriguing story of a anthropologist investigating human rights abuses in pakistan, i believe. the best thing is the setting and the atmosphere that ondaatje sets up - because he transports you to the place and writes in such a fashion that you have goosebumps. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Van | 7/16/2012

    " Recommended to me for a long time but resisted. Finally read it and really enjoyed it. Will read more Ondaatje now. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lusi | 6/30/2012

    " definitely a favorite "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pam | 5/9/2012

    " I should have loved this. The book is set in Sri Lanka and is a personal look of the violence that has taken place there in the last 3 decades. Corruption at all levels and the futility of trying to uncover the truth. It was beautifully written, but I couldn't focus on it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Steve Tornello | 5/7/2012

    " Not a good follow up to read right after "The English Patient". That's too high of a bar to have in your mind. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Macmanj | 4/1/2012

    " A very well written story which gives background into the Sri Lankan conflict. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 LMJ | 2/2/2012

    " Lyrical, haunting, non-linear, and precise. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gayle Gordon | 12/18/2011

    " different for sure - "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robyn | 10/18/2011

    " The prose in this novel is enlightening. Ondaatje does justice to his female character and delves into the story giving us just enough to fill in the gaps with our imagination. One of my favorite books by far. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Desiree | 5/28/2011

    " I do not like this book! The dialog is wooden and the whole thing is very bland. I am interested in the historical events, but the most interesting character is only just being fleshed out three quarters of the way through the book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sarah | 5/23/2011

    " Too bad I couldn't give a negative star count. Perhaps the most boring writer EVER! I have no idea why he has won awards. Half way through this book, I realized I had no interest whatsoever in any of the characters, and it plodded so slowly.... Yawn.... life is short! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lee | 5/19/2011

    " i'm not sure. maybe i didn't give it enough attention, reading it in inbetween times while i was distracted. but it didn't grab me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrew | 5/15/2011

    " I read this book about 10 years ago; I thought it was great. I didn't think of it as historical fiction though until I happened to read a review of it. It seemed like a novel to me when I read it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 The | 5/14/2011

    " It was interesting in getting a little insight into a troubled country but a lot was too drawn out and very, very slow... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mady | 5/12/2011

    " For me, the most resonant part of this book was the details that the author chose to include to reveal the shape of moments. Still haunted by the line about the pulsing leaf that fell into the sailor's bones. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 prema | 5/9/2011

    " had this book on the shelf for a long time before picking it up the other day. had some of ondaatje's fave tropes in there (the threesome in the abandoned house, relationships in wartime, &c) but still managed to resonate, his language is just so _nice_ sometimes!!


  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Felicity | 4/29/2011

    " Must read if going to Sri Lanka - or in the light of the UN's report into the most recent atrocities there NOT being published. WONDERFUL HOW A PERSON (CHRACTER ) CAN CHANGE AND BECOME MORALLY SO, SO BRAVE. (oops, caps on!) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Keith | 3/31/2011

    " Interesting book about a female medical examiner who returns to her home in Sri Lanka. Lyrical writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Wog | 3/29/2011

    " A favorite. To be savored over days, weeks, months. Lyrical, evocative, intensely powerful writing and story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nicole | 3/24/2011

    " It was wierd that there was a mention of Tetrology of Fallot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Daryoung | 3/22/2011

    " Very poetic story of a young woman who travels to Sri Lanka to investigate potential human rights violations from the perspective of a forensic scientist. Truly, it reads like poetry. "

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About the Author
Author Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje is the author of three previous novels, a memoir, and eleven books of poetry. His novel, The English Patient, won the Booker Prize and became the basis for the Oscar-winning movie of the same name. Born in Sri Lanka, he moved to Canada in 1962 and now lives in Toronto.

About the Narrator

Alan Cumming is an award-winning actor, singer, writer, producer, and director. He recently starred in an acclaimed one-man staging of Macbeth on Broadway and appears on the Emmy Award–winning television show The Good Wife. Cumming won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the Emcee in the Broadway musical Cabaret. He is the winner of the 2015 Audie Award for Best Autobiography/Memoir narration and Best Narration by the Author Award as well as six Audiofile Earphones Awards. He hosts PBS Masterpiece Mystery and has appeared in numerous films, including Spy Kids, Titus, X2: X-Men United, The Anniversary Party, Any Day Now, and Eyes Wide Shut.