- Hardcover: 263 pages
- Publisher: Everyman's Library; 1st edition (October 4, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307700879
- ISBN-13: 978-0307700872
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 406 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The English Patient Hardcover – October 4, 2011
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“A rare and spellbinding web of dreams.” —Time
“Sensuous, mysterious, rhapsodic . . . It transports the reader to another world.” —San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Michael Ondaatje is the author of eleven books of poetry, a memoir, and six novels, including The Cat’s Table, coming in October 2011. He lives in Toronto.
Pico Iyer is the author of two novels and seven works of nonfiction. His new book, The Man Within My Head, comes out in 2012.
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But if the book is difficult to read and understand, it is beautifully written. The language is lyrical. At the end of WWII, a young woman, a nurse, winds up living with three men in a bombed out wreck of an Italian Villa. One is The English Patient, hideously burned in a plane crash in Libya, and supposed to be dying. The other three are also victims of the war, although their wounds might be more difficult to see. The interactions of these four damaged survivors are woven into a tapestry as the novel unfolds, beautiful but, at the end, still difficult to comprehend.
The book is presented in three story-lines, independent and intersecting at the same time. That much character development would not have made a good movie.
The story lines of Hana, Kip and Caravaggio are as unique and interesting as that of the English patient whose story brings them all together and intersect. While the Drama of each of their lives could be a story in itself and the specificity of the English patient, strangely, is not even needed to for they story arch...it could have been other things...but the saga of the English patient and the mystery of his life and identity interweaves and drives their more mundane life struggles. It's story, story, story and the English patient's narrative is a powerful driver.
Missing or short-changed in the movie are the deeper story of Hana dealing with the trauma of her father's death, Kip's story of trying to navigate the fallout of colonialism, assimilation, identity and the east-west divide, and Caravaggio's (who's character, along with Hana first appear in a previous book " "In the Skin of a Lion"-they really did grow up together in Canada) who relationship with Hana is infused with tenderness but is confusing to Hana because of unresolved family relationships she is still sorting out...and sought out Hana in Italy (not the English patient-but there are connections there they turn up).
Don't skip the book...it is a good read with characters of depth that you don't often encounter.
I have never read a book that has captivated me in the way that ‘The English Patient’ has. It focuses the reader on the story of five key people from different origins, four of whom the fates of war were sheltering at the end of the Second World War in a ravaged Italian villa with a personality of its own. The tales began early enough to clearly define the origins of these characters and the formation of their values and beliefs. While our period of experience covers no more than a few years, Ondaatje’s introduction to these people is simultaneously both continuous and instantaneous. I could fully feel the hearts and souls of each of these characters at every moment as they lived, felt, loved and evolved around each other. The depth and richness that he infused in each of these characters pulled them together while he shaped them to stand alone on their own merits. While mystery and love surrounded the English patient’s origins, I completely understood his complexities along with those of Hana, Kip and Caravaggio. While Katharine created the source for Almásy’s ferocious passion, Ondaatje’s beautiful style let me feel every moment and emotion of their love, making it both a wonderful and a most enriching experience.
Nature, humanity, war and sensation were also characters that we learned to understand through the precise palate of Ondaatje's prose; you burn with their passion, you smell the villa breathing, the desert vastness overwhelms you, the undetonated bomb is alive, it's Africa, it's antiquity, it's timeless Europe, it's the 1940s, you are living in war, you are there.
Bob Magnant is the author of The Last Transition..., a fact-based novel about Iran. He writes about politics, globalization, the Internet and US policy in the Middle East...