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

by Michael Ondaatje

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8,358118371 (3.93)569
Member:zapzap
Title:The English Patient
Authors:Michael Ondaatje
Info:Vintage Books (1992), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:booker prize, canadian, prose, secondhand, war, pov, 2012

Work details

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)

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» See also 569 mentions

English (108)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Lithuanian (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (117)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
The English Patient
3 Stars

Set in an abandoned military hospital in Florence towards the end of WWII this is the story of 4 damaged people drawn to the same place and each other.

Hana is a young nurse who refused to leave the hospital claiming her patient, the english patient of the title, was too badly burned to be moved, alone at first they are joined by the charismatic Caravaggio.

Caravaggio is a friend of Hana's now dead father, despite knowing her as a child he is attracted to the adult she has become, he is also sure that the english patient is not what he claims to be.

The last member of the quarter is Kip a young sikh sapper sent to clear the countryside of bombs.

Together they share their experiences of the war of life and death and love.


While this is well written and intriguing for me it was more of a character study than a cohesive story and I felt it lacked something, it probably didnt help that I couldnt believe in the english patient for someone that badly burned to survive stretched my credulity to breaking point. ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Beautiful, exceptionally so in places, interesting in places (boring and predictable toward the end with Kip), but also curiously empty, like lifting the lid of a good-smelling cake pan and finding just a glob of partially dried icing inside. 2.75 stars. ( )
  Michael.Xolotl | Nov 11, 2015 |
3.5 out of 5. Full of beautiful moments and several storytelling feints and subversions... but the novel ends up feeling a little too light for my tastes. Ondaatje's writing is beautiful (he's also a poet, which explains much) and he has an eye for characters that will stick with me and seem to exist outside of the story he's given them on the page. They are interested in discovering themselves, not in uncovering any forward-moving plots - and while this is an end in and of itself, there are so many stories here that I wanted more from. Sometimes you're happy with a tasting menu... and sometimes you want a full meal, you know?

More at RB tmrw: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2015/09/04/the-english-patient/ ( )
  drewsof | Sep 30, 2015 |
3.5 out of 5. Full of beautiful moments and several storytelling feints and subversions... but the novel ends up feeling a little too light for my tastes. Ondaatje's writing is beautiful (he's also a poet, which explains much) and he has an eye for characters that will stick with me and seem to exist outside of the story he's given them on the page. They are interested in discovering themselves, not in uncovering any forward-moving plots - and while this is an end in and of itself, there are so many stories here that I wanted more from. Sometimes you're happy with a tasting menu... and sometimes you want a full meal, you know?

More at RB tmrw: http://ragingbiblioholism.com/2015/09/04/the-english-patient/ ( )
  drewsof | Sep 30, 2015 |
Four people live together briefly at an abandoned villa toward the end of World War II. They are all waiting for the paths of their lives to reemerge after having experienced many painful and traumatic events related to the war. This basic premise is what was interesting about this book, but problematic character introduction and development interfered with the book's full potential. I was willing to believe some aspects of the life stories of the English patient, Kip, and even Caravaggio, but two particular aspects of Hana's life story seemed less plausible, not because they were by nature unbelievable but because they required more than a passing comment or two to make them real. Similarly, the novel moved too quickly to fully understand important parts of the relationship between Katharine and Almasy. Though written in poetic language that brings to life the varied settings of the book, the overall reading experience was somewhat frustrating. A possible conclusion the book makes is that sometimes it is necessary to postpone fully feeling pain for awhile in order to eventually move beyond it. ( )
1 vote karmiel | Jul 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (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
“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.”
“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.”
“All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”
“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.”
“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.”
Last words
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:36 -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 13 descriptions

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