The English Patient
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The English Patient

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  66,450 ratings  ·  2,350 reviews
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 ro...more
Hardcover, First American Edition, 302 pages
Published September 29th 1992 by Knopf (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

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Adam
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
Margot Jennifer
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
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
Colin McKay Miller
Oct 14, 2008 Colin McKay Miller rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Melissa Jackson
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
Die already.
Jr Bacdayan
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
·Karen·
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
Kim

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
Cheryl
This Booker Prize winner is the story of the shedding of skin. The process of becoming another can occur dramatically like the burns the Englishman suffers in the desert plane crash that claims his physical identity and memory. It can also happen internally with the loss of friends, altered perceptions and compromised beliefs, and the endless arrivals of the dead and wounded. The self can be a casualty of war too.

It's the end of the Second World War, mines litter the landscape of Italy, bandits...more
Henry Avila
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
Jake
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.
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
Chrissie
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
Adam
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
Molly Westerman
Jul 17, 2010 Molly Westerman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hated (or loved) the film version; lovers of beautiful language
The English Patient is a sort of postmodernist ensemble character study, working through the traumatic memories of a nurse, a thief, a combat engineer, and a mysterious burned man who may or may not remember his own name. That sounds really abstract and difficult and boring, but it's actually a beautiful and gripping novel, and one that my undergraduate students always love. It's a book about identity (and its trickiness), all sorts of love, sex, war, trauma, storytelling, reading, nations, impe...more
Sonia Gomes
Apr 23, 2014 Sonia Gomes rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jemidar

I've been wanting to read this since the movie came out almost twenty years ago and am very glad I finally got around to it. It's beautifully written in a pared back prose style and has a very languid feel, at times making me feel like I was seeing events through the same morphine haze as some of the characters. The story involving the Italian villa was interesting but my favourite parts by far were the flashbacks as told by the English Patient.

I'm now off to watch the movie which I've also been...more
Lisa
It’s a different experience, reading a novel after seeing the film first. As I lost myself in the pages of The English Patient I could see the thin, taut faces of the characters as they were in the film, and I could see how perfectly the adaptation and casting had captured the brittleness of the world they inhabited. My own mother is the only other one I know ever to so perfectly explain the sense of living for the fragile moment during the Second World War. Perhaps that was because she too had...more
Callista
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Saman Kashi
يكي از دل‌مشغولي‌هايم در زندگي فيلم ديدن است(البته سينما نمي‌روم و علاقه‌اي ندارم). در ميان فيلم‌هاي كه به شدت دوست دارم و خوش مي‌دارمشان همين فيلم (بيمار انگليسي) است. روايتي كه كارگردان مرحوم اين فيلم(آنتوني مينگلا) از رمان مايكل اوندات) به تصوير كشيد بسيار ستودني‌ست. (آنتوني مينگلا) پيش و پس از اين اثر فيلم‌هاي ديگري ساهت اما هنوز كه هنوز است او را با اين شاهكارش مي‌شناسند و من وقتي چيزي، كسي، شيئي را خيلي دوست دارم واقعاً نمي‌توانم درباره‌اش صحبت بكنم؛ چرا كه كلامي كه بتوانم براي آن حسي كه د...more
Beth
Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I saw the film years ago and loved it. The beauty in the cinematography left me with clear memories over the years since. Usually I read books before movies and like them better, and conversely once I've seen the movie of a book I haven't yet read, my motivation to read the book is pretty low. But this was marvelously worth taking in in both formats. The imagery in the novel is as startling and rich as that of the movie, and at the same time made me crave...more
Will Byrnes
This may be one of those rare instances in which the film exceeds the book. It is a wonderful book, but is not without its flaws. The author, in his third person persona, keeps quite a distance from his characters, and the reader is held at arm’s length. Kip, for example is clearly a very positive character, yet we (I) do not feel the affection for him that one might expect. Caravaggio is a thief and remains a thief, so there is little love there to hang onto. The women are also beyond our urge...more
Barbara Elsborg
A book club book, otherwise I doubt I'd have read it. I'm not a fan of depressing stories and this one depressed me not just with the subject matter - a man dying slowly cared for to various degrees by three others, but it depressed me because I knew there was a deeper meaning to it, but I just didn't get it. Yes, I see that Hana is the symbol of joyful naivete, a child like figure who longs to be loved and hugged and cared for. I can see this is about loss and love and life and identity - I see...more
Petra
To see the movie and then read the book are two very different experiences. Do both!
Katsumi
This is a novel of revelation, and just as the identity of the English patient is slowly revealed as the novel progresses, so too are the inner selves and spiritual identities of the other characters in the novels. Ondaatje writes his novel of discovery very much in the manner of Virgina Woolf, revealing things only briefly, like "flashes of lightning." Indeed, lightning abounds in this novel, lighting up the dark and melancholic landscape for a very brief period, but long enough to reveal hints...more
Betsy Boo
Thank God that's over! What a difficult, frustrating book! The first half of the book is like having a jigsaw puzzle where none of the pieces fit, so you keep trying to force them together in vain. It is only with the second half of the book that you are somewhat rewarded...the narrative smooths out and you find yourself finally caring what happens to these people. The up-side is, there are sections where the descriptions are beautiful and poetic, but in my mind that doesn't make up for the lack...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 28, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books (Modern Fiction)
This my 2nd Man Booker prize winning novel. Like J. M. Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K that I read in March this year, I also enjoyed this novel. It is very insightful, well-told and well-researched. It also had some references made on other classic fictions like Histories (Herodotus), Kim (Rudyard Kipling) and Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) because most of the main characters have these classic pieces as their favorites. Examples are: Almasy (The English Patient) who saved his copy of Histor...more
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Movie better than the book? 6 129 May 31, 2014 09:01AM  
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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.” 2772 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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