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The English Patient

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  125,190 ratings  ·  5,497 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, 320 pages
Published April 18th 2006 by McClelland & Stewart (first published September 1992)
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Elise Falcon This is meant to point out the idea of "otherness" when it comes to the idea of Orientalism, a concept that Edward Said wrote on extensively when it c…moreThis is meant to point out the idea of "otherness" when it comes to the idea of Orientalism, a concept that Edward Said wrote on extensively when it comes to defining the colonial subject and object. This is a huge point of discussion in post-colonial theory, and by depicting it through Hana's character with her use of the descriptor "exotic," Ondaatje hopes to first convey the idea of perceived otherness through the physical before subverting it through the patient's characterization later in the novel. It isn't as simple as pointing fingers and calling Hana racist, there's so much more going on here as far as complex storytelling goes. I think it does the novel a disservice to merely chalk Hana up as a racist and be done with it. Ondaatje is making moves that deal with body politics and disruptive identities, not drawing a line and creating characters that are good and bad.

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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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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  125,190 ratings  ·  5,497 reviews


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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
Will Byrnes
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
description
Michael Ondaatje in 1999 - image from NY Times

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
...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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje

The English Patient is a 1992 novel by Michael Ondaatje (Sri Lankan-born Canadian poet, fiction writer, essayist, novelist, editor, and filmmaker).

The book follows four dissimilar people brought together at an Italian villa during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The four main characters are: an unrecognizable burned man, the eponymous patient, presumed to be English, his Canadian Army nurse, a Sikh British Army sapper, and a Canadian thief.

The story o
...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 harsh deserts of Libya, by Bedouins, no dog in this fight. Nevertheless burnt badly in a plane crash, a fiery inferno and a miracle the pilot still has a heartbeat, but for how long ? Hana, a young attractive Canadian nurse, takes care of the "Englishman" , she falls in love with this sad enigma, like many angels of mercy, in the past and the future, they succumb to the helpless ...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
Colin Miller
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
Charlotte May
"I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you."

I thought this book was ok. I would say that I enjoyed it, but I can't say that it is one that will stay with me, nor one I will keep and choose to reread.
There is a lot of flicking between past and present, and between different characters with no way of defining when this happens. This meant I found the narrative rather disjointed and at times confusing.
Hanna is a nurse, chosen to stay behind at the hospital where she worked once WW2 is
...more
Margot Jennifer
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magic
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
Karlyflower *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 AN
...more
emma
Honestly, the idea that I could ever have possibly liked this book is on me.

But to be fair, I thought that I was thinking clearly on this one.

Yes, I read this book primarily out of my need to read everything that has ever made it to a "books you should read in a lifetime" list, especially those that are available 3 for a dollar at my childhood library paperback sale, and yes, that instinct almost steers me wrong.

But also, I actually really enjoy World War II content. Sure, I might not really car
...more
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
Luís
It's a world in which you have to (accept to) let yourself be overwhelmed. Not always easy, but you get caught up in the game, the mix of people, places, and eras. Pleasant reading, to approach under the angle of poetry, dreamlike. I liked this reading even if it sometimes required my efforts: one does not enter this universe unexpectedly and probably does not leave it unscathed; it is a look at people, life, and feelings. And at war, alas. A look at yourself, too, at each other's humanity. I wo ...more
Glenn Sumi
I can't believe it took me so long to get to this book. But in a way I'm glad I read it four months into a deadly pandemic. Immersing myself in this tale of four strangers holed up in a crumbling, abandoned villa outside Florence in the final days of World War II felt oddly soothing during this bizarre, uncertain time.

The way Ondaatje crafts the story, weaving in and out of people's memories, is just masterful. He creates a dreamscape of imagery, thought and narrative. The book is of average len
...more
Lisa
Scarred and broken people.

Isolated in a random post-catastrophe community.

Breathtakingly beautiful landscapes.

Captivating characters and storylines.

This is a wonderful, wonderful novel, told in different layers and voices and from different perspectives. If we can rationalise this, one character thinks at the end of the nightmare tale of the intellectual brilliance that humanity puts into creating ever more sophisticated ways to kill each other, culminating in nuclear weapons, if we can rati
...more
Jaline
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“There are days when I come home from arid writing when all that can save me is ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelly performing with the Hot Club of France. 1935. 1936. 1937.”

Side Note: I can understand these sentiments precisely. Whether the river of creativity expresses for an individual through the medium of words, of music, of putting together plumbing pipes, of performing intricate surgery or dance steps; no matter the form of individual creativity, music can he
...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
Vanessa
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
I feel bitterly disappointed in myself for hating on this book, I don’t get the love for this book at all, why all the accolades? I caught myself nodding off lulled by the writing or simply from boredom I’m not quite sure. I did finish the book, but did struggle with the style of writing in particular. It’s dreamlike quality with it’s non linear and poetic prose making it feel more like an endurance test, it also lacked all kinds of plausibility. I wasn’t compelled in the slightest to pick the b ...more
Jason Koivu
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 all the 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
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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He lies in the room surrounded by pale maps. He is without Katharine. His hunger wishes to burn down all social rules, all courtesy.

Her life with others no longer interests him. He wants only her stalking beauty, her theatre of expressions. He wants the minute and secret reflections between them, the depth of field minimal, their foreignness intimate like two pages of a closed book (155).



I've had this book for about five years. My mom
...more
Wen
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
On a rainy Saturday, Michael Ondaatje was on the Podcast introducing his new novel Warlight. It just felt the right time to do the long-overdue catchup on his best-known book. I pretty much finished in one sitting, and was totally blown away.
Several World War books have already made to my all-time favorite list: Atonement, All the Light We Cannot See, Songbird, just to name a few. The English Patient has easily found itself a spot there.
If you haven’t read the book, most likely you have watched
...more
Mel
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Judith E
Sep 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, africa, favorites
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a book with no oomph. Just because the beginning is a murky, hazy, slow pace with a bombed-out Italian villa and landscape it’s no way to judge what unfolds in this masterpiece. Be prepared for desert adventure, spies, sexual attraction, PTSD, and so much more all leading to a firm statement about war, love, and white supremacy. You will wonder out loud, (and I do this a lot while making the bed), how the heck did Michael Ondaatje just pull that off? Oh, and ...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
Constantine
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½
Genre: Literary Fiction

Four damaged lives meet and live together in Italy at the end of World War II. In an abandoned villa, a nurse (Hanna), a thief (Caravaggio), an Indian sapper (Kip), and an English patient, meet and live there talking about their present and about what they have suffered in the past. They relive those memories (good and bad) that still cheer them up or haunt them all the time.

This book was the Booker Prize winner in 1992. I have watched the movie adaptation ma
...more
Bianca
My second read of this novel, this time in English, twenty-two years later.

I had some trepidations getting into it. It's amazing that some images, little details stayed with me all this time. Of course, there were things I'd forgotten, such as the fact that Caravaggio was Hana's family friend, that Almasy, aka the English Patient, was fifteen years older than his love interest, Katherine. I confess, the movie adaptation, which I love, did muddle my reading experience a bit, albeit not as much as
...more
Paul Weiss
My opinion only, of course, but it goes against the mainstream!

Typically, books characterized as modern classics, whose literary merits must be described by voluminous scholarly analysis and gushing pretentious references to such tools as symbolism, have never appealed to my reading taste. Frankly, I prefer a much more direct story-line and the plot of Ondaatje’s THE ENGLISH PATIENT, such as it is, is anything but direct and transparent.

Maclean’s magazine referred to it as, “One of the finest C
...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
Erin
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Alrighty, this is an absolutely terrible way to start a book review, but the 1996 film directed by Anthony Mingella and starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, and Kristin Scott Thomas is a film (that picked up 9 Oscars) that still remains one of my all time faves. Yet, I had never read the book. That is, until this morning. Adored by many since its 1992 publication, The English Patient is now considered one of those much talked about books as it is now available in thirty-eight languages and ...more
Atri
The English Patient is a literary masterpiece of the highest order. Every word is indispensable, nothing is redundant and the prose is heavily impregnated with poetry. Ondaatje weaves an intricate plot which unravels with the gradual delineation of memories, while infusing tender emotions into one of the most sanguinary and ruthless periods of conflict in the history of mankind, and creates an augmented reality through fiction which attempts to assuage the pain of loss and make sense of senseles ...more
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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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