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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry as prose
This is one of the most beautiful books ever written. I dipped into it recently (having read it twice on the past several years) and the quality and beauty of the prose left me staggered at what can be done with the English language. The descriptions put you right into the location with the characters, from Kip in a crater defusing a bomb, to the eponymous patient in the...
Published on 28 May 2008 by Essex Girl

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The English Patient
Unfortunately I saw the film before I read the book, which I normally try to avoid - Though it was years ago I saw it, I still had Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Binoche in my minds eye. To my surprise, however, the film did not keep faithfully to the book, so I was still able to enjoy new things - For example, Count Almasy's romance with Katharine almost takes a back seat to...
Published on 15 Dec. 2010 by Book 1981


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry as prose, 28 May 2008
By 
Essex Girl (Essex (yes, really)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
This is one of the most beautiful books ever written. I dipped into it recently (having read it twice on the past several years) and the quality and beauty of the prose left me staggered at what can be done with the English language. The descriptions put you right into the location with the characters, from Kip in a crater defusing a bomb, to the eponymous patient in the desert.

One of the cleverest things about it is the way that we become acquainted with the characters as they would have got to know one another: in fits and starts, without chronology. They are built up layer by layer, incident by incident. They become visible in the mind's eye. Not only that, but we see the world through their eyes: the image of Kip lighting flares and swinging in space to look at the paintings inside the domes of churches is magical - and I'm not sure Ondaatje could have written it had he not come at Western culture from the East, born as he was into the Ceylon Burgher community.

The plot is complex, the characters are complex, the prose is amongst the best you will ever read. Now and then the switches of time and location will leave you gasping, as you turn the page expecting to read more about one of the characters, only to find yourself dropped into another part of the story.

The only thing that puzzled me was the persistent survival of the patient: that anyone so badly burned could survive so long seems illogical. Aside from that, I thought it was a perfect book about loss and longing, and written with almost implausible talent and skill. Ondaatje is a poet as well as a novelist, and that is very obvious in the pages of this story.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The English Patient, 15 Dec. 2010
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This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
Unfortunately I saw the film before I read the book, which I normally try to avoid - Though it was years ago I saw it, I still had Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Binoche in my minds eye. To my surprise, however, the film did not keep faithfully to the book, so I was still able to enjoy new things - For example, Count Almasy's romance with Katharine almost takes a back seat to Hana's life in the Italian villa and the story of Kip, the Sikh sapper. Caravaggio is not the menacing stranger we see in the film, but more of a tortured father figure trying to look after Hana as she slowly starts to recover from the war.

The book it written in Ondaatje's signature style - poetic and atmospheric, slow and emotional. It is powerful and beautiful at the same time, an effect the lingers long after you close the book. The draw-back for me is that sometimes the emotional prose gets a little too flaky and hazy, a bit too dreamy and wandering. I sometimes even get the feeling he is trying too hard to achieve this intimate, rhythmic effect that the result is a little clumsy and contrived.

But without a doubt, this is a moving book about love, the disaster of war and the process of picking up the pieces afterwards. There are beautiful descriptions of the North African deserts and a small cast of vivid and believable characters which makes this book well worth the read.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a book to read slowly and preferably aloud., 28 Oct. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
This is a book which should be read slowly and preferably aloud. In this highly recommended piece of literature we are taken on a sensual exploration of place and people. It is worth savoring the language which evokes the taste, touch, sight, sound and smell of the characters who are inextricably bound up with their own geographical and human journeys.
Hanna, 'imagines all of Asia through the gestures of this one man.' When Kip looks at Hanna, 'he sees a fragment of her lean cheek in relation to the landscape behind it.' The English Patient vividly recalls the dry heat of the desert being refreshed by a breeze eventually increasing and transforming the surface of the desert. 'We had to keep moving. If you pause sand builds up...and locks you in.' This is the same desert which had just been described as: 'The grooves and the corrugated sand (which) resemble the hollow of the roof of a dog's mouth.' In contrast we experience the freezing cold mud as Kip prepares to defuse an unexploded bomb: 'He had come down barefoot...being caught within the clay, unable to get a firm hold down there in the cold water. He wasn't wearing boots - they would have locked within the clay, and when he was pulleyed up later the jerk out of it could break his ankles.' The faceless English patient wears, 'an amber shell within his ear' so he can hear the clawing and breathing of the dog. He hears, 'the drift of voices, now and then a laugh from the smoky garden. He translates the smell, evolving it backwards to what had been burned.'
This is not a book for those who want a quick read in anticiapation of a comfortable resolution. The language compels us to linger as through our senses it transports us in space and time to places and events that have the appearance of fact rather than fiction.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Poetic Treasure, 14 Dec. 2009
By 
Fleurie Amorette Forbes- Martin "Fleurie" (Bournemouth Univeristy) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
A crumbling villa sleeps solemnly, deeply buried in the hills of Italy. WWII has torn through the country and an abandoned nunnery has become a hospital where a young nurse, Hana, remains alone to care for her only patient, an English man irrevocably damaged, lost without the memory of his own identity after a tragic plane crash.

The story begins with two individuals brought together in desperate times. Hana is a young nurse toughened by her exposure to the consequence of war, `some men had unwound their last knot of life in her arms'. She remains only to dote on the English patient, a broken man, discovered by the Bedouin in a burning plane. He is bed bound and burnt black but as time unfolds, concealed from the outside world, Hana is unknowingly falling in love with him.

Later, they're joined by Hana's wise friend, Caravaggio. An ex thief used by the government during the war as a thief, he was caught, his fingers cut off and in hospital it would seem by fate he stumbled upon a conversation regarding her whereabouts. They are then discovered by a Sapper, Kip who's routine is reclusive and regimental. The heart's true desires become blurred, as Hana's emotions blossom for another man, and the story delves back into the English patient's forgotten passion yet to be rediscovered.
The story is sewn together in a passionate and poetic collaboration of language and emotion. This is a book that requires your attention and patience.

The English patient is an emotionally challenging read for the mature imagination, with complex and thrilling tales that build and weave, connecting their sorrowful hearts. It may not travel great distances but it delves deep into forgotten memories of a powerful and heartbreaking love. The book will capture you from start to finish and leave your grip reluctantly.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The English Patient- Catherine Hunter, 14 Dec. 2010
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
The English Patient written in 1992 by Michael Ondaatje, a Canadian novelist and poet. The novel was well received by readers and gained him the prestigious 1993 Booker prize. As I delved into the novel I began to struggle reading past the first few pages, they started to seem very tedious and slightly dull. It was as though the novel didn't really have much substance to it and was going to be one of those reads that you regret wasting your time trying to realise it is as good as everyone keeps telling you it is.
As I pushed myself to continue reading on, the characters that started to appear I seemed to recognise them. I then realised to myself that I had in fact seen the film interpretation of the novel. After having this sudden realisation I was slightly irritated as I have always tried to make sure that I do not let a film interpretation of a novel affect the way I read the novel itself. With the book being such a hard read initially I found myself skim reading the next 20 or so pages. Then without realising I found myself hooked onto the story and after 3 hours had passed, I really found it difficult to put the book down and regretted ever doubting the book to begin with. It is a very rich novel and pleasingly written, about the lives of four individuals whose lives have been damaged by the war. The novel is based on 6 main characters Almásy, Hana, Kip, Caravaggio, Katharine Clifton and Geoffrey Clifton, set in Italy during the 1930's- 1950's. The novel is based to communicate to the readers how the lives of these characters were damaged by the Second World War and how it changed their lives completely. All of the main characters are powerful individuals in the sense that the stories of their lives have been conducted by tragedy, romance, struggles internally and the circumstances they had been faced with over the years. Personally, as a reader and lover of historic novels, especially those focusing on war; the characters presented in `The English Patient' are some of the most illustrious characters I have come across.
The action in the novel mainly takes place in an Italian villa just after the Second World War. A youthful Canadian woman, Hana, is helping to nurse back to life a seriously wounded patient who she believes to be an English explorer of the desert. The next character that is introduced in the novel was Caravaggio a Canadian friend of Hana's, who previously was a thief turned spy, who joins them in the uninhibited villa. The final character to join them in the abandoned villa is a Sikh Indian sapper called `Kip'. As the novel progresses and delves deeper, Hana and Kip begin to engage in a sexual bond with one another. For the English patient he begins to remember great detail, from his life before his accident, in which the English patient gradually unravels the secret of his identity and past are intriguing, enlightening, and mesmerising.
After finishing the novel I found myself looking through bookshelves to find others like it, I just wanted to feed my imagination with stories like this one as it gave me a great deal of satisfaction as a reader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Melancholy read, 12 Nov. 2012
By 
Ste to the J (Mansfield England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
Although billed as a love story, there is so much more to be had from this, bomb disposal, espionage, exploration, archaeology, art and literature are all employed to varying degrees in the text to give it more gravitas.

There is a lot to recommend about this book, it really does show the rich tapestry of life, in many forms. Naturally a lot of this book is about relationships of all kinds, family, friends, lovers et al and revolves around four intriguing characters all coping with a sense of loss for people, places and times past, that have been taken away from them by the war and all its senseless machinations.

Whilst each characters stories unfold in a whirlwind of superbly written prose, the surrounding ruins, countryside and desert mirrors the characters. The sense of a scarred, damaged, delicate landscape almost starting to help ease the protagonists into this new world that they are entering, almost helping to start the long road to recovery from the sheer continents wide devastation of lives destroyed.

As you would expect from a story embroidered in history and its importance, you are looking at a very emotionally charged creation. A timeless tale of love in war, which is given a veneer of romance and adventure mystery and exoticism, even managing to bring in the Libyan Desert as not only its own character but a metaphor for the characters hidden desires buried deep, as well as a plethora of other meanings.

There are a few negatives, not major ones mind, there are plenty of flashbacks and abrupt cut offs between characters and plot threads, so to begin with it may not the easiest to orientate too but after a few pages it's easy to get into the groove, even if it makes it no less mildly irritating. At least one character doesn't seem to have quite the depth to match the others which is unfortunate but doesn't detract from the story at all. Surprisingly neither does the ending which I found a bit loose but happily just gave me more to ponder on in a wider sense of the aftermath of war for the real people who survived.

After years of evading romance in books the last few years have shown me the depths of what I have been missing and enriching my literary appreciation. So whilst this isn't up to the passionate love affairs of Latin American authors such as Gabriel García Márquez, it's still a very good and emotive journey through war time and all its anguish and profundity.
[...]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly beautiful examination of motive, 8 Feb. 2012
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
When a book has won the Booker Prize and the film that it spawned has taken Oscars, the casual reviewer might be tempted to conclude that everything has already been said on its subject. Having just revisited the film after several years of absence, I decided to re-read the book. I don't remember how many times I have read it now: let's call it several. I have seen the film at least six times.

First let it be said that the film, The English Patient, claims only to be based on Michael Ondaatje's book. It is a film from the book, not of the book. The distinction is crucial because, despite the film's admirable attempt to recreate the complexity of part of the novel, the book always went much further.

In the book we have characters who have been scarred by war, by a war that none of them particularly wanted to fight. I suppose there are occasional wars where some of the participants want to be active. But here Caravaggio just wanted to stay a thief and thus keep his thumbs. And who would take over thieving if he is drafted to fight? Perhaps Hana's father really did intend to see out the conflict and restart his previous life. Perhaps the English Patient, himself, did really want to be English. I doubt it. Or perhaps the idea, that of nationality, given war, was mere irrelevance. It was sides that people counted. He certainly had much to hide, but from whom? What does it matter what side you claim to be on when it is only ever the innocent who fall victim? This last point is crucial to the feelings of Kip, the character who only just makes it into the film.

For in the book this Sikh sapper, this bomb disposal specialist, who risks his own life to protect others, is a complex anti-colonial thinker. He has a sense of justice that transcends victory, especially when that victory is won at tremendous cost in the lives of those who did not fight. This aspect the film makers largely ignored. His character became a suspiciously like an aspect of the noble savage that remains gratefully unthreatening to colonialism. In the book his standpoint is far more radical than this.

And as far as Almasy is concerned, if that really was his name, he eventually worked for those people who would accept him at face value, without a racism that was suspected. On the other hand, he was Hungarian, and in that war the nation was sympathetic to fascism. So did he merely support his own country's line? Whom would you believe? Whose motives are honest?

Almasy's love for the wife of a British war-monger was undoubtedly sincere, but at the same time obsessive. Might it have burned out if given the freedom to flame? And did Katharine know of her husband's contribution to war? If not, who was betrayed? In the film it is unclear that it took Almasy three years to return to the Cave of the Swimmers, and also spent much of the intervening time doing significantly more than merely handing over maps. Such is life in war. In film, it's the gloss that counts.

In The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje's book, we are never clear about motives. These change whilst apparently remaining both consistent and sincere, despite remaining unknown, often unstated. There is continued life after the conflict ends, albeit utterly transformed, still dangerous, and then there is death which, for some seems the preferable option. There are principles, and these are largely underpinned by pragmatism. Above all there are actions and reactions. Ask any fuse. It might just blow you away from what you are. Light the blue touch-paper and stand back, well back.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The English Patient, 8 Dec. 2011
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
The English Patient, written by Michael Onjudante, is a delicately written novel, exploring the life of a victim of war and his nurse as they begin their lives post-World War Two, and others that they encounter. Hana, his nurse, Caravaggio, and Kip all become absorbed by the life of this victim, the English patient, discovered in the desert after crashing his plane.
Onjudante's writing style is apparent immediately, thorough and descriptive, and the way in which he portrays the context of the book makes it easy to continue reading. However it does take some time to get into, much of the first couple of chapters is spent scene setting, and it was slightly long winded. However, when Caravaggio's thieving character is introduced, this decreased, the tone altered and the read thus became more enjoyable. The second half is much better than the first, yet not without flaws.
The relationship between Hana and her patient is outlined in the beginning as very mysterious and you ponder why she remains with him. You do not immediately understand her relationship with Caravaggio and there is an eagerness to continue as you want to grasp the interaction between the characters. He takes you almost on a journey, and as the book progresses, you begin to understand the characters in great depth, more so than in other novels. You see first-hand the ways in which they interact with one another. Identifying with them can be difficult however, despite each one representing traits of personality that many people carry. The feelings experienced by the characters are very true to life, yet it can be hard to relate and difficult to understand why Ojundante uses them in the way that he does.
The use of language is what stands out more than anything else, not characters, not plot, but the way in which Onjudante's style is almost poetic. This assists imagery, but it easy to get lost and it can be frustrating when you're trying to piece together information, particularly at the start. It is beautifully written though; he has a skill that only good authors possess in that the way he writes, completely engaging and imaginative.
The English Patient does make for a solid read if you have patience and concentration- it isn't an overly light novel and it can take some pushes to continue to the next twist in the ever moving storyline. It lacks the satisfaction with the plot you get when completing, but you do feel as if you have achieved a good read when you reach the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime and subtle story of love and war., 1 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
I was 'inspired' to read this astonishingly moving novel when I recently saw the DVD of the movie adaptation, which I hadn't seen since it was first screened nearly 20 years ago - I hadn't realised, either, that the book had won the Booker before that. I was not in the least disappointed: the novel is a good deal more subtle than the film and characters are 'fleshed out' more convincingly, for example the sapper Kip.
The plot differs from the movie in that the first three chapters, extending for over a hundred pages, are all set in Italy at the end of the war; this helps establish the relationship between the nurse, Hana, and her 'English' patient, who relates, first to Hana, then to Caravaggio and Kip, separately, his life's work as a map-maker and the love affair with Katharine Clifton, the love of his life, in the Egyptian/Libyan desert in the '30s.
Michael Ondaatje is a true poet: his writing moved me deeply; it is both profound and exquisitely beautiful. Read it and see - I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read after seeing the film, 28 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
Having seen the film I found interest in seeing the differences and thought perhaps the film ending was a little better. The explosive technical background helped make the book a page turner and the true stories about Lord Suffolk were memorable. I am glad people have the courage to be bomb disposal officers but I cannot think how I could ever be one with the risk of death seemingly so close. The ingredients and the mixing and cooking of the story were very good. I also have the book setting out the film script which illustrates a picture being worth a thousand words by the economy of the text. Good memorable characters and surprise moments. I will read again. Lent the book to a friend who did not like the book at all.
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The English Patient
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (Paperback - 2 Aug. 2004)
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