1920s Toronto - the Bloor Viaduct - In the Skin of a Lion
            If you like romantic novels, you will probably like In the Skin of a Lion, a novel by Michael Ondaatje. Honestly, the romance was a little too much for me, who is more accustomed to crime novels for a light before-bed read. However, I really appreciate the historical ride to the 1920s-30s Toronto where Ondaatje took us.
    The book took place partly during the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct, more commonly known as the Bloor Viaduct. The Viaduct connected the east and west side of the Don Valley, which really sped up the development of the west side of the Don.
    The Viaduct was designed by Edmund Burke, and it was completed in 1918. What is really special about the viaduct was except the level where cars go through, there's another level under the main deck which the trains could go through. According to Ondaatje, there were also water pipes built in so they can be transported across the city. The train deck was initially criticized to be a waste of money, but later, in 60s, it proved a be a huge save of money, as it was in the Bloor-Danforth line as part of the Toronto subway system.
            The viaduct, since its completion, became a hotspot for suicides, rated number two after the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in North America. This, however, would have nothing to do with the dramatic event of the nun falling off the Bridge during the construction in Ondaatje's fiction.

11/6/2010 16:12:32

I wonder how the fictional Commissioner Harris would react to his creation becoming a suicide hotspot.

11/7/2010 03:19:23

It's funny you say that... this reminds me a paragraph from the book,
"Then there was no longer any fear on the bridge. The worst, the incredible had happened. A nun had fallen off the Prince Edward Viaduct before it was even finished. The men covered in wood shavings or granite dust held the women against them. And Commissioner Harris at the far end stared along the mad pathway. This was his first child and it had already become a murderer (p.31)."

11/27/2010 23:28:13

Great link to the article on suicides ... when I was a kid, the Bloor - Danforth line was my way to school - it is interesting what happens to your reading of a novel when it evokes childhood memories of the place you grew up .... as I like to say; it is the reader who brings meaningfulness to a text ......


Leave a Reply.