The English Patient (Picador Thirty) Paperback – 6 Sep 2002
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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 the second world war 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 sheet 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 secured 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.
'No novel published this year in Britain, or anywhere else, matches The English Patient for either lyricism, narrative impact or quality... In descriptive prose of spectacular beauty, Ondaatje invents a desert world which is both physical and imaginative. This is one of the few truly great post-war novels' IRISH TIMESSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
update; have now finished the book and although i enjoyed reading it as it's well written and interesting the ending in my personal opinion was a little bit bland and not as well written as the rest of the book
So there's that, and that's good. But that's poetry. In a novel you need more. You need characters people can relate to, you need a reality which people can inhabit, you need to want to know what happens next. In these areas, Ondaatje is far weaker. When he isn't in the business of summoning, he is actually quite a bit weaker. The main problem is that everyone acts and talks as if they are in a literary novel, delivering crafted sentences and forever immersed in their emotional and moral worlds, weighed down with gravitas and profundity. The English Patient is the very definition of the Literary novel, the very book people who don't read much literary fiction imagine it to be and the very book most people imagine a Booker winner to be and this, for me, is as much a genre novel as a crime thriller. You can basically play Literary Bingo with this: mysterious back story, unreliable narrator, intertextuality, symbolic prose style and so on and on. Lives cannot be this profound all the time, people would simply kill themselves with the pregnant weight of it all.
However, the feeling of place is amazing; you can sit in one chair for one afternoon and read the whole book and completely disappear into that old villa. You will be in its gloomy, abandoned rooms, in its crumbling gardens and dishevelled library for all of this time, transported to a remarkably clear place and time.
In short then, immaculate stage set, head-shakingly good writing, cloying literariness, not actually that much fun page-by-page.
Still though, those sand dunes......
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