Ondaatje definitely possessed the ingredients for a great novel: interesting characters overwhelmed by civil strife, images of senseless carnage and Buddha statues being restored in Sri Lankan fields. But the main characters are overwhelmed, rather than being transformed, by their plight. The most memorable characters are secondary characters (the blind academic and his niece, the eye painter and the memory of his wife, the doctor), which made me indifferent to the central mystery. The final imagery will stay with me forever, but the unnecessary probings into the protagonist's past were taking away from the larger drama of human suffering and loss. In other words, we were being set up to focus on Anil and her mission, when, in fact, the true heroes were the "minor" characters who persevered in the face of civil war and death. So, Ondaatje's craft is evident, but the art is not transcendent.