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The English Patient

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  92,220 Ratings  ·  3,309 Reviews
Michael Ondaatje’s stunning novel takes place during the final moments of the Second World War. It explores the lives of four people who come together in a damaged villa in Tuscany as the war retreats around a young Canadian nurse; an enigmatic thief whose skills have made him one of the war’s heroes as well as one of its casualties; a Sikh soldier in the British army; and ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 1992)
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TJ Dublin In the book "In the Skin of a Lion," Ondaatje delves deeper into Hana's, her father's and Caravaggio's past. I see these two books as linked, they're…moreIn the book "In the Skin of a Lion," Ondaatje delves deeper into Hana's, her father's and Caravaggio's past. I see these two books as linked, they're inextricable to me.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
Adam
Apr 10, 2007 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
Margot Jennifer
Jan 30, 2008 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 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
Jason Koivu
This feels like a classic piece of literature, one of those core foundation books taught in American Lit classes at liberal arts colleges. Perhaps it's because of the all classical references Michael Ondaatje places in the mouths of his character the English patient. Perhaps it is in the storytelling, concerning itself with the cerebral and almost entirely devoid of action except in the backstories. The poetic choice of words themselves may be the cause. Perhaps it's the World War II Italian cou ...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*


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
Melissa Jackson
Sep 28, 2009 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.
Julie Christine
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
Jr Bacdayan
Oct 10, 2013 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 s
...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
Bobby Underwood
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few books are felt as much as read, but The English Patient falls into this category. Like the film, it is hauntingly beautiful, but for slightly different reasons. The story of people haunted by love and war, their damaged souls converging at a villa in Italy, remains, but the focus and method in which the story is told on paper is filled with poetic passages, and stunning beauty.

The passages are like water moving to and fro over rocks, shifting back and forth in time so that the beauty beneath
...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 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, canadian-lit
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
Ted
If this book doesn't make you an Ondaatje fan, then nothing will! Wish I still had it, worth another read I'm sure.
Megan Baxter
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though it was years and years ago that I saw it, I wish I'd read the book before seeing the movie made of The English Patient. It would likely have meant that I'd have despised the movie, but having seen it kept me putting my attention in certain places, and never seeing other aspects creeping up until it was too late.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you ca
...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
Quite disappointing.

Ondaatje weaves a strong, coherent story with beautiful characters, his prose is still masterful and fluid, yet the book lacks the imaginitve and lyrical narrative that made me fall in love with his work.

As a stand alone book, its quite impressive; it just does not belong to Ondaatje's otherwise poetic body of work.
Chrissie
Oct 20, 2012 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
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
Kim
Jun 23, 2014 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
Gautam
Oct 11, 2015 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
·Karen·
Feb 23, 2010 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
Fred Shaw
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The English Patient Kindle Version
By Michael Ondaatje
Four Stars

As I looked over other reviews of this book, i found them to be a divided lot. The reader either loved it or trashed it. I found it overall an excellent read and would recommend it with caution: allow the story to develop before giving up. The beginning was difficult to follow because it jumped around some, but I was finally able to see the beauty and intelligence of the writing.

The story is about 4 damaged people who come together n
...more
Henry Avila
Jul 30, 2011 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
Sonia Gomes
Mar 19, 2009 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
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.
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
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
Adam
Mar 04, 2009 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
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What makes you like this book. 1 5 Nov 12, 2016 07:13AM  
What's your favorite Character? 14 120 Aug 16, 2016 09:31PM  
Around the Year i...: The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje 1 21 Feb 24, 2016 01:46PM  
  • Saville
  • Something to Answer For
  • The Elected Member
  • G.
  • Holiday
  • Moon Tiger
  • In a Free State
  • Fugitive Pieces
  • The Wars
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)
  • The Old Devils
  • Oscar and Lucinda
  • Troubles
  • No Great Mischief
  • Away
  • Sacred Hunger
  • How Late it Was, How Late
  • Last Orders
4030
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
More about Michael Ondaatje...

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“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.” 3050 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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