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The English Patient

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  96,951 Ratings  ·  3,608 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
Paperback, 307 pages
Published January 18th 1998 by Vintage Books USA (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)
Monica 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…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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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
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
...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
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
Wen
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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
Andrei Bădică
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Întotdeauna am purtat în mine o mare de cunoștințe. Sunt unul dintre oamenii aceia care, lăsați singuri într-o casă, se duc direct la rafturile cu cărți, iau un volum și îl sorb cu nesaț. Astfel istoria pătrunde în noi."
"Nu-i vrea decât frumusețea luminoasă, teatrul de expresii. Vrea mărunta și tainica privire dintre ei, cea mai restrânsă rază vizuală, deosebirile dintre ei așezate alături, ca două pagini lipite într-o carte închisă."
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
Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

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I read this book for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2017 Reading Challenge. For more info about what this is, click here.




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
...more
Ova Incekaraoglu
Poetic and beautifully written, as if Ondaatje didn't write but painted each chapter. Unfortunately I have read the book after watching the movie, I wish I read the book first.

A haunting love story, I have read years ago but still affects me today. One book makes Ondaatje a writer you can never forget.

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
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.
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
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
Chrissie
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, hf, italy, libya, egypt
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
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.
Asghar Abbas
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Unpretentious work despite its designs, very likable, really readable. The inevitable movie adaptation completely altered and ruined a perfectly fine ending. And like I always say, it's all about the endings.

So this became relevant again. It's funny. So funny. Some things remain like canines made up of wind from the Man who Rained, not breezing away. While others come back to you like an Imagine Dragons song. Yeah, life is weird.

We are talking about this book's ending, what an ending it was. On
...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
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
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What makes you like this book. 1 9 Nov 12, 2016 07:13AM  
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Around the Year i...: The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje 1 24 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
1,987 followers
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.” 3068 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.”
833 likes
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