Canada Reads·Canadian

In the Skin of a Lion

Michael Ondaatje's novel is a love story and a mystery set in the turbulent new world of Toronto in the 1920s and 30s.

Michael Ondaatje

In the Skin of a Lion is a love story and an irresistible mystery set in the turbulent, muscular new world of Toronto in the 20s and 30s. Michael Ondaatje entwines adventure, romance and history, real and invented, enmeshing us in the lives of the immigrants who built the city and those who dreamed it into being: the politically powerful, the anarchists, bridge builders and tunnellers, a vanished millionaire and his mistress, a rescued nun and a thief who leads a charmed life. This is a haunting tale of passion, privilege and biting physical labour, of men and women moved by compassion and driven by the power of dreams — sometimes even to murder.

In the Skin of a Lion won the first Canada Reads competition in 2002, when it was defended by Steven Page. It was also a finalist for the 1987 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. 

Read an excerpt | Author interviews 

From the book

An April night in 1917. Harris and Pomphrey were on the bridge, in the dark wind. Pomphrey had turned west and was suddenly stilled. His hand reached out to touch Harris on the shoulder, a gesture he had never made before.

— Look!

Walking on the bridge were five nuns.

Past the Dominion Steel castings wind attacked the body directly. The nuns were walking past the first group of workers at the fire. The bus, Harris thought, must have dropped them off near Castle Frank and the nuns had, with some confusion at that hour, walked the wrong way in the darkness.


From In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje ©1987. Published by Vintage Canada.

Author interviews

Author Michael Ondaatje discusses Toronto's early history and his <em>Canada Reads</em> 2002 winning book <em>In the Skin of a Lion</em>. 11:56

Other books by Michael Ondaatje