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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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7 of 8 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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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, 15 Oct 2000
By A Customer
I agree with the last reviewer - don't let Antony Minghella's half-baked and completely unsubtle adaptation put you off. Or, if you liked the film, rest assured that the book is a hundred times better. Here is a novel that hovers between poetry and prose. I heard the author took 8 years to write it and it shows. Possibly the best 'Booker Prize' winner of the 90s decade, this is a stunning novel which combines prose to make your imagination and senses reel, and (rare in most literary novels) a plot that is as dramatic and intriuging as a modern thriller. The array of places and scenes is mesmerising, from Kip dismantling a bomb, to the intensity of the patient's love affair memories in Eygpt. It is in many ways a challenging read - there are times when the narrative is bewildering and difficult, but persevere - as one review put it, read the book, put your faith in it and it will be repayed.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Patience required, 4 July 2010
By 
Oracle - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
I could spend all day praising the beautiful, lyrical language that Michael Ondaatje uses in The English Patient. The problem is that it's pretty much all there is to the novel, which ultimately lacks power as its story and characters get lost in the languorous meandering of its poetry.

The worst offender is Ondaatje's non-existent characterisation. The characters are for the most part only distinguished from each other by crude markers of race, sex, age and nationality. They speak the same dialogue and think the same thoughts and seem little more than ciphers for Ondaatje's philosophy. Hanna, we are told by the author, is severely traumatised by her experiences during the war, but there is little evidence of it in her speech or actions.

It's a story about the war strangely lacking in horror and harshness, which seems to be smothered by the lyrical language. We don't feel the pain of the English patient's burns, only the beauty of his thoughts. For me, the narrative lacked drive as it drifted and circled around its central events, repeatedly revisiting the same scenes. The best chapters by far were Kip's experiences in the bomb disposal unit where tension and drama were finally allowed to break through the language. But it wasn't enough to redeem the rest of the book for me.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, complex book - don't just watch the movie!, 12 Nov 1999
By A Customer
The English Patient is a beautiful and complex novel - it has two story lines which are intermingled but are separate in time and place. I don't agree at all that it is boring, but it is a difficult book to read because of these two stories and the very poetic style of the prose. It is absolutely worth the effort though, because you quickly realise that where the movie tends to simplify and romanticise the relationships, the book adds layer upon layer of ambiguity and complexity. The book enhances, I find, the importance of the Hana-Kip love story, presenting it as a beautiful and constructive love relationship in counterpoint to the destructive, menacing, almost violent love between the English patient and Katherine. The latter love affair dominates both the book and the movie - but in the book it is infinitely more troubling, tragic and lonely. This book is worth every one of the 5 crowns I gave it - try it!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One to read again, 26 April 2009
This review is from: The English Patient (Paperback)
I'm sure that, as wonderful a book it is on a first read, The English Patient will be ten times better the second time around. That's because the slow, detailed plot is densely punctuated by understated moments of importance - the kind you don't catch first time through. Then when you re-read it, you find yourself saying 'aha!' a lot. I agree with another reader that slowly slowly is the way to go with this. It's not a fast-paced thriller, but a lyrical, dreamy novel that is pinned together by finely drawn and highly sympathetic characters. The changes of voice, tense and location can have your head spinning on occasion but are all part of its charm.

On the downside, I will repeat the criticism I had of Anil's Ghost by the same author. So many loose ends are left untied. It seems to me that this is symbolic of the way lives are fragmented during times of war. There are no neat endings and people sometimes just disappear. While I appreciate this point - if that's the point he's making - it is a little unfulfiling in a novel. And for that reason, four stars, not five.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent voice for an excellent story!!, 17 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Michael York reads the U.S. version of The English Patient audio book. If you're in the U.S., spend a few extra dollars and GET THIS VERSION. Ralph Fiennes adds passion to this story in his perfect reading. I wanted to slap York everytime he did his "Hana" voice. Go to sleep listening to Ralph's reading, and you'll definitely have pleasant dreams. :)
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The English Patient
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (Paperback - 2 Aug 2004)
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