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The English Patient

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  83,609 Ratings  ·  2,876 Reviews
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 w ...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published 1993 by Picador (first published September 1st 1992)
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Allan Your giving a book one star because you cannot get through it? That's not the books fault

In relation to your question - in the Novel Caravaggio knows…more
Your giving a book one star because you cannot get through it? That's not the books fault

In relation to your question - in the Novel Caravaggio knows of Hana (and is close friends with her father). He hears about her when he is in a hospital being treated for his hand wounds. He sets off soley to see her.(less)
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WWII Historic Fiction
42nd out of 663 books — 550 voters
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1st out of 46 books — 16 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Adam
Jul 19, 2007 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, booker-prize
The English Patient is one of my least favorite novels of all time. Michael Ondaatje's prose is the literary equivalent of having a gossamer skein repeatedly thrown over your face and then dragged away; fleeting and insubstantial, but just present enough to be really fucking annoying. Also, his dialogue sucks. People in the 1940s absolutely did not speak the way Ondaatje has them speaking. This novel won the Booker Prize in 1992, an award which was, for some God-unknown reason, split with Barry ...more
Brad
I marvel that this was ever read by more than a thousand people. It is too poetic for the mainstream, too fragmented for easy consumption, and too sensual for those who consider plot the most important part of a novel. This remains one of my three favourite novels because of its poeticism, fragmentation and sensuality.

This time through I decided to read it out loud, and a whole new sensuality exploded into the experience for me. Actually rolling those words and worlds around on my tongue, wheezi
...more
Margot Jennifer
Jan 31, 2009 Margot Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The English Patient is an illuminating novel written by Michael Ondaatje, who tells the story of four damaged lives tangled together at the end of World War II. The story involves characters like: the melancholy, childlike nurse Hana; the emotionally and physically maimed thief, Caravaggio; the pensive and wary Indian bomb-disposal expert, Kip; and the burnt and broken English patient, a mysterious wounded soul without a name. The story revolves around several major themes such as: war and the p ...more
Colin McKay Miller
Oct 14, 2008 Colin McKay Miller rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of penis "sleeping like a sea horse" descriptions
Everyone hates at least one classic. Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient was the book that first did it for me.

I’m not always fair when it comes to one-star reviews, but if I’m stopping shy of anonymous Amazon slams I figure I’m not doing all that bad. Still, I’ll try to be as fair as possible to The English Patient.

The novel is set in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. The nameless English patient is a burned invalid who unites the other characters—his worn out nurse, Hana; the ma
...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja & Luminescent Monster*


O, is for Ondaatje

2 Stars

I’m going to venture out of my normal review style here, and instead do a Q & A with Hana (the, erm... MC, maybe?!)

Me: Hey Hana, what’s up with you not leaving the Italian Villa despite the fact that there are corpses and mines littered everywhere and the war has ended already?

Hana: I just don’t think "The English Patient" would survive the transfer and I love my independence here. I mean where else can I give an immobile man sponge baths, inject him with morphine
...more
Cassy
I am just going to fess up. This book was too literary and depressing for my tastes or, at least, for my mood when I started. Ondaatje offered beautiful descriptions, insightfulness, and a profound melancholy. Yet I found myself trudging through this one, propelled forward only by his up-coming visit to Houston.

Given his picture on the jacket cover, highfaluting writing style, and acclaimed career, I expected him to be pretentious. To the contrary, he was charming during the on-stage interview.
...more
Melissa Jackson
Jun 13, 2011 Melissa Jackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a slow moving dream-- like a great, surrounding poem. The language is unbelievably sensual and the story is like nothing you'll ever read. It is thick with emotion and description. Although somewhat laborious at parts, it's altogether disassembling (to quote the author). It takes you into the raw bleeding heart of Almasy and never lets go. It made me want to die....and then be re-born and read it again. I could not ever express how much I love love love this book.
Kate
Jul 02, 2015 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Die already.
Julie
On the floating shelf of Books That Have Changed My Life, one will find The English Patient.

Michael Ondaatje repeats a line (it appears on pages 112 and 113 of my edition) that I want to wrap myself up in and think about, write about, dream about, cry over, taste, drink in: 'If he could just walk the seven yards across the Englishman's room and touch her he would be sane.' and a few paragraphs later, 'If he could walk across the room and touch her he would be sane.'

I believe it is the only repe
...more
Shovelmonkey1
This is the book that made me want to run away to Cairo in the 1940s and have an affair with one of the displaced European aristocracy. The only thing that's currently preventing this is the human races inability to perfect the art of time travel. Curses! But once that small hurdle has been removed, I'll be off. This book appealed to me on many levels:

Deserts and far flung foreign travel - tick
Hidden subterranean archaeology - tick
Enigmatic European aristocracy - tick
Spell binding tale of fate c
...more
Phrynne
I am going straight down the middle on this one and giving it three stars. I liked the beautiful use of the English language and the lovely descriptions. I liked some parts of the story such as the chapters about Kip. I did not like the parts where with the best will in the world I could not make real sense of what was occurring (possibly nothing I think). I did not like the love affair which seemed to have been very brief and ended very harshly. And I always prefer books where the ending involv ...more
Maxwell
Mar 15, 2015 Maxwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Absolutely stunning. The English Patient follows four characters and their brief but powerful months spent together in an abandoned Italian villa after World War II. The prose is lyrical. Ondaatje moves lithely through the inner voices of each character: Hana, the young Canadian nurse; Caravaggio, the thief; Kip, the sapper; and the mysterious eponymous English patient.

What I loved most about this book was seeing, especially near the end, how each character, though stranger to one another, had s
...more
Jr Bacdayan
Oct 12, 2013 Jr Bacdayan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the early precepts of the morning, before the spherical fire illuminates from the east, there lies a mist resembling a giant white sheet, engulfing the plain of Florence, when viewed from the vista of Villa San Girolamo. Villa San Girolamo. A resort of renaissance, a nunnery, a fortress, a makeshift hospital, a shelter to four scarred and broken silhouettes in darkness. A testament to the arduous effects of time and the slow decomposition of the past.

How do you pick up the pieces? How do you
...more
Chrissie
Mar 04, 2015 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, hf, egypt, libya, audible
The writing ….what can I say? I love it:

She had always wanted words. She loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Whereas I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water. She returned to her husband. “From this point on,” she whispered, “we will either find or lose our souls. Seas move away. Why not lovers? “

When we parted for the last time, Maddox used the old farewell: “May God make safety your companion”. And then I strode away from him saying, “There is
...more
Gautam
Nov 07, 2015 Gautam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This has to be one of the most over-rated books I have ever read. My initial reaction had been positive but eventually it turned out to be a total let down. The writing is poetic, psychedelic and all that, but it all turns out to be a pointless blabber. Forgettable.

2 stars on 5!
-gautam
Kim
Jul 21, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I may have been in a bad mood when I watched the film adaptation of this novel back when it was first released, because I didn't like it much at all. It was too long, too slow and I didn't care about the characters at all. Whether I would have felt differently about the film had I read the novel first, I don't know. What I do know is my dislike of the film put me off reading the novel and, for that matter, any other novels by Ondaatje.

It was good to get beyond my negativity about the film and f
...more
Sonia Gomes
Feb 29, 2016 Sonia Gomes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Sonia by: My sister brought it from the US as a gift
You feel the desert, you taste the hot desert breeze, you see those strange patterns on the timeless sands of the desert, how I longed for water on my lips but it eluded me, I was there amid those dunes and among those Bedouins.
I gave a start when Kip came storming in the ruined villa with the beautiful frescoes on the wall, as Hanna played the piano. I was there, with my heart in my mouth, wherever and whenever Kip, the young Indian sapper defuses bombs in odd places, a piano, trees in the or
...more
·Karen·
Sep 17, 2011 ·Karen· rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
Well I managed to finish it this time. But it aint going on my favourites shelf I'm afraid. Yes, yes, it's lush and lyrical and majestic in its rhythms, multi-layered and melancholic, sensual and brutal, full of searingly beautiful images that burn themselves into the mind's eye, yes, all of that. Obviously it is a masterpiece, I'm told that at every turn, and I cannot deny it.
Now for the 'but' - or indeed 'buts'. I was most troubled by Hana and Caravaggio - the first time I tried to read this
...more
Violet wells
“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...”
The same might be said of the characters in The English Patient. For this is a beautiful, artfully crafted novel about the mapping of identity within borders, set before and during World war two when borders were in continual flux and territorial conquest and possession were the name of the game. The narrative, like the abandoned villa in which the
...more
Henry Avila
Dec 18, 2012 Henry Avila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who really is the English Patient?Brought to a mountain villa, outside of Florence Italy, after being rescued in the deserts of Libya, by Bedouins. Burnt badly in a plane crash, Hana, a young Canadian nurse, takes care of the "Englishman" .She falls in love with this sad enigma.Set in the closing days of the second world war.The nurse refuses to leave with the other doctors and nurses, when the conflict heads north.She believes the patient will not survive , the move. Enter David Caravaggio, an ...more
Aerin
Oct 30, 2015 Aerin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awakening from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams."

What a perfect description for how I felt reading this extraordinary book, this book that is so much about the power of words - to define, to deform, to deceive and destroy us.

The English Patient takes place in a war-ravaged Italia
...more
Michael Kneeland
When I first experienced this novel, I was a freshman in college. My grades had been poor because the journalism major I had thought I wanted to pursue turned out to just be a series of courses on how to write with hot air and the unnecessary rules that bind that style of writing--it was clear that Hunter S. Thompson had made no impression on the School of Journalism at the University of Maine. I was clearly too depressed and listless to make any real attempt at passing those journalism courses, ...more
Jake
Sep 11, 2007 Jake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: generallit
This book is like reading water. Ondaatje's writing is just so fluid and lyrical that it ends up being utterly captivating. The tale of identity lost and found that he weaves in the English Patient is the kind that will stay with you forever.

Poorly done over by the movie.
Ana Ovejero
Jan 20, 2016 Ana Ovejero rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book contains the kind of story that marvels the readers because of its uniqueness: the plot is superb, the language poetic, the characters complex, the scenes dynamic, passion flowing its pages, destiny waiting for those who has challenged their fate.

It starts with the description of Hannah, a nurse taking care of a mysterious man whose skin is so burned that he is described as 'black'. Then, we learn that the story takes place during the Second World war, the Bedouin seeing the planes fal
...more
Tim
In another novelist’s hands this book could have been a high octane WW2 thriller. You’ve got an archaeological explorer, a spy and a sapper defusing bombs. But Ondaatje does something altogether much cleverer and haunting with his characters and material. He investigates the borders of identity against the shifting borders of war. What goes into the forming of identity and what can undo it – “She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of oth ...more
Connie
Four damaged people are residing in a bombed out Italian villa in 1945 as World War II is coming to a close. Hana, a Canadian nurse, has seen too much death in the war and is also mourning the death of her father. She is caring for the English patient who is covered with burns from a fiery plane crash in Libya. The burns have made his identification impossible, and the multilingual man may not actually be English. Canadian David Caravaggio is a maimed spy and thief who was tortured in the war. K ...more
Adam
Mar 04, 2009 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-modern
Where do I begin with this book!?! I had read Ondaatje's "Divisidero" and thought it had stunning prose. The narrative was unconventional and intriguing and reminded me of the beat-writers - only less outlandish and indulgant. Naturally, I assumed that this writer's award-winning novel "The English Patient" would illicit the same imagery and magic.
It did not.
This book was painful. I never quite knew what was going on or what I was suppose to be feeling. There were no characters to really iden
...more
Nandakishore Varma
This novel contains fantastic prose, but it put me to sleep every time after I read one or two pages. I don't remember the story at all: my memory of the book is inextricably tied-up with the dreams from afternoon naps.
Branwen Sedai *of the White Ajah*
The heart is an organ of fire.

In Italy, in the aftermath of WWII, four people come together to come to terms with themselves in an attempt to move on. There is Hana, a war weary nurse. There is Carravagio, a thief with a physical impairment that resulted from his profession. There is Kip, a sapper who looks for hidden bombs everywhere. And then there is the English patient. A man burned from a plane crash with little to no memory as to who he is. As these four all converge in an abandoned villa,
...more
Luffy
Aug 23, 2014 Luffy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The bunch of characters that make up the cast of The English Patient are very lucid. But I have read reviews that present them as shell shocked. Are these people mad? I mean the characters, not the reviewers. Do they think of themselves as normal? Sure they do. I knew going in that I would not understand all sentences. But there's one part that mystified me. It began with the phrase "Her foot pressed down harder onto the boy's neck..."

The book mentions several books itself. Also, quite a few s
...more
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Around the Year i...: The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje 1 14 Feb 24, 2016 01:46PM  
  • Saville
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • The Old Devils
  • Fugitive Pieces
  • The Elected Member
  • Something to Answer For
  • The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy, #2)
  • Holiday
  • How Late It Was, How Late
  • Staying On
  • The Stone Carvers
  • The Wars
  • Offshore
  • Last Orders
  • Moon Tiger
  • In a Free State
  • The Diviners
  • G.
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He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit ...more
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“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.” 2971 likes
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. 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.”
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