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The English Patient Paperback – November 30, 1993
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Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as World War II ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning. In lyrical prose informed by a poetic consciousness, Michael Ondaatje weaves these characters together, pulls them tight, then unravels the threads with unsettling acumen.
A book that binds readers of great literature, The English Patient garnered the Booker Prize for author Ondaatje. The poet and novelist has also written In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid; two collections of poems, The Cinnamon Peeler and There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do; and a memoir, Running in the Family. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sometimes confusing when author is jumping back and forth from one character to another without names, but falling into right places in awhile.Read more
The individual characters are painted in imaginative and poetic way. A real page turner.Read more