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The English Patient Paperback – November 30, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Ondaatje offers a poetic novel set in a desolate Italian villa in the final days of WWII--a one-week PW bestseller--and an evocative account of a visit with his family in Sri Lanka.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"A rare and spellbinding web of dreams." —Time
"Sensuous, mysterious, rhapsodic, it transports the reader to another world . . . . Ondaatje's most probing examination yet of the nature of identity." —San Francisco Chronicle
"Mr. Ondaatje [is] one of North America's finest novelists . . . . The spell of his haunted villa remains with us, inviting us to reread passages for the pure pleasure of being there." —Wall Street Journal
Top customer reviews
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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.
Ondaatje writes with powerful and captivating intensity but due to his poetic style the text is often weirdly and uncomfortably fragmented and because of this I found the book to be a laborious read. This poeticism made it hard to connect to the characters even when their emotions were described in detail. The book is filled with beautiful and vivid descriptions but it seems that more attention was given to pretty writing than to a substantial plot. What I enjoyed most about The English Patient was Ondaatje's handling of the Identity theme. He makes you think about how identity is constantly changing and that a person's identity is a complex mix of their history, how they perceive themselves, how others perceive them and the lies they tell themselves in order to be able to live with themselves.
Quite a complex and intense novel that was initially difficult to find a reading rhythm with, the switching back and forth with the characters and events. Parts of the story I fell into, the writing was beautiful, the descriptions of the environment, the differing cultures.
Damaged and vulnerable characters, a mystery, love and devotion and a setting that appealed greatly. Requires some patience but well worth the effort.
In the movie, the story revolves around the love affair between Almasy [The so-called English Patient] and a married woman. That is the core of the story. In the book, the story rambles between a cast of characters, all traumatised by the war, one way or the other. The story of Almasy is simply one of the threads that holds all the other characters in that time and place.
To be honest, if I hadn't seen the movie first, I'm not sure I'd be as fond of the book as I am. I'd recommend that anyone wanting to read this book should approach it with as few pre-conceptions as possible.
I am not sure that this is a book I would read again, as it wasn't what I normally look for in stories.
(but other people may have loved it - this is my opinion only)
Most recent customer reviews
Who are those people who gives 4 and even 3 stars to this book?!Read more
Well written, just enough detail, not a hair too much.
Now I want to watch the movie!