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The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
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The English Patient (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Michael Ondaatje

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,799None427 (3.95)456
Member:StevenTX
Title:The English Patient
Authors:Michael Ondaatje
Info:Vintage (1993), Edition: 4th printing, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, World War II, Italy, 1001 books, Egypt, espionage, desert, 20th century, 1990s, Canadian, romance, adultery

Work details

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)

1001 (65) 1001 books (54) 20th century (107) Africa (82) Booker (65) Booker Prize (159) Booker Prize Winner (58) Canada (46) Canadian (157) Canadian fiction (41) Canadian literature (147) desert (39) Egypt (60) fiction (1,284) historical (45) historical fiction (208) Italy (190) literature (133) love (76) made into movie (39) movie (42) novel (237) ondaatje (44) own (51) read (105) romance (129) to-read (121) unread (76) war (153) WWII (432)
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  6. 01
    Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje (stevereads)
  7. 01
    Naples '44: A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy by Norman Lewis (wandering_star)
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  8. 02
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  9. 13
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» See also 456 mentions

English (99)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Lithuanian (1)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (106)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
In theory, I should have liked The English Patient. It features four very interesting characters. There’s a bit of history. There are details of what life was like for the foursome. It’s well written, compelling. I think if I’d read it in print, I’d have liked it better.

Instead, I listened to The English Patient, and I believe that was the wrong approach to take. I suspect the book really might be quite lovely, but you cannot drift off and still follow along. If you lose the thread of the story even briefly, you have no idea where you are. Not the kind of book that works well on audio, at least for me.

Full review is posted on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Mar 14, 2014 |
this is why i reread some books. i read this ages ago, remembered almost nothing about it, but don't feel like i was overly moved the first time. this time around, i find this just beautiful. it's lyrical and gorgeous and just lovely, all around. it's one to linger over and savor.

one example:
"...he runs over the grass in his socks, his shadow curled under him, painted by the moon." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Jan 5, 2014 |
Beautiful , tragic, what else ... Great book but if you enjoy hist FIC or romance, this has everything in spades. ( )
  literateowl | Dec 11, 2013 |
Set in Italy at the end of WWII, this is a story of four marred individuals in an abandoned villa. Hana the nurse who is tired of seeing dying and the loss of her baby and father, Caravaggio the thief who doesn't know what he is now that he has maimed hands, Kip the Indian sapper who dismantles bombs for the allies and the so called English patient who lies in his bed as others come in and interact with him and deal with their own needs. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
I liked it in some ways and not others. I found the flow too jumpy to keep my interest. That was deliberate, of course, to create the dreamlike, otherwordly effect but it was distracting to me as I tried to engage with the characters. ( )
  Laine-Cunningham | Oct 16, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
... the plane must have been drying out under its tarpaulin in the desert for eight years. It is entirely covered with sand. Almasy `digs' it out : with what? ... Having shifted tons of sand ... he moves, single-handed, the plane out on to the level, so it can take off. How, single-handed, does he `swing the prop'? ... sand would have penetrated moving parts of the machinery and would have to be meticulously dusted out. ... Almasy merely pours in his can of petrol -- and the engine starts!
added by KayCliff | editWhere was Rebecca shot?, John Sutherland (Mar 14, 1998)
 
It is a complex and confusing novel whose readers might easily want to consult the index simply to untangle the threads of the plot ... to clarify events that had another meaning ... in an earlier context.
 

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Ondaatjeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fiennes, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
"Most of you, I am sure, remember the tragic circumstances of the death of Geoffrey Clifton at Gilf Kebir, followed later by the disappearance of his wife, Katharine Clifton, which took place during the 1939 desert expedition in search of Zerzura.

"I cannot begin this meeting tonight without referring very sympathetically to those tragic occurrences.
"The lecture this evening . . . "
~ From the minutes of the Geographical Society meeting of November 194-, London
Dedication
In memory of
Skip and Mary Dickinson

For Quintin and Griffin

And for Louise Dennys,
with thanks
First words
She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.
Quotations
Information from the Spanish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
“Why are you not smarter? It's only the rich who can't afford to be smart. They're compromised. They got locked years ago into privilege. They have to protect their belongings. No one is meaner than the rich. Trust me. But they have to follow the rules of their shitty civilised world. They declare war, they have honour, and they can't leave. But you two. We three. We're free.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“There is a whirlwind in southern Morocco, the aajej, against which the fellahin defend themselves with knives. There is the africo, which has at times reached into the city of Rome. The alm, a fall wind out of Yugoslavia. The arifi, also christened aref or rifi, which scorches with numerous tongues. These are permanent winds that live in the present tense.
There are other, less constant winds that change direction, that can knock down horse and rider and realign themselves anticlockwise. The bist roz leaps into Afghanistan for 170 days--burying villages. There is the hot, dry ghibli from Tunis, which rolls and rolls and produces a nervous condition. The haboob--a Sudan dust storm that dresses in bright yellow walls a thousand metres high and is followed by rain. The harmattan, which blows and eventually drowns itself into the Atlantic. Imbat, a sea breeze in North Africa. Some winds that just sigh towards the sky. Night dust storms that come with the cold. The khamsin, a dust in Egypt from March to May, named after the Arabic word for 'fifty,' blooming for fifty days--the ninth plague of Egypt. The datoo out of Gibraltar, which carries fragrance.
There is also the ------, the secret wind of the desert, whose name was erased by a king after his son died within it. And the nafhat--a blast out of Arabia. The mezzar-ifoullousen--a violent and cold southwesterly known to Berbers as 'that which plucks the fowls.' The beshabar, a black and dry northeasterly out of the Caucasus, 'black wind.' The Samiel from Turkey, 'poison and wind,' used often in battle. As well as the other 'poison winds,' the simoom, of North Africa, and the solano, whose dust plucks off rare petals, causing giddiness.
Other, private winds.
Travelling along the ground like a flood. Blasting off paint, throwing down telephone poles, transporting stones and statue heads. The harmattan blows across the Sahara filled with red dust, dust as fire, as flour, entering and coagulating in the locks of rifles. Mariners called this red wind the 'sea of darkness.' Red sand fogs out of the Sahara were deposited as far north as Cornwall and Devon, producing showers of mud so great this was also mistaken for blood. 'Blood rains were widely reported in Portugal and Spain in 1901.'
There are always millions of tons of dust in the air, just as there are millions of cubes of air in the earth and more living flesh in the soil (worms, beetles, underground creatures) than there is grazing and existing on it. Herodotus records the death of various armies engulfed in the simoom who were never seen again. One nation was 'so enraged by this evil wind that they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred.”
― Michael Ondaatje
“All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“The desert could not be claimed or owned — it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names before Canterbury existed, long before battles and treaties quilted Europe and the East ... All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries. It was a place of faith. We disappeared into landscape.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swam up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if cares... I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. WE are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“To rest was to receive all aspects of the world without judgement.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679745203, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:43 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The Booker Prize-winning novel, now a critically acclaimed major motion picture, starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe and Kristin Scott Thomas. With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminates this book like flashes of heat lightening.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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