23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Poetry as prose,
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.