Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The English Patient” as Want to Read:
The English Patient
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The English Patient

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  103,890 ratings  ·  4,131 reviews
An alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here.

With unsettling beauty and intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an abandoned Italian villa at the end of World War II. The nurse Hana, exhausted by death, obsessively tends to her last surviving patient. Caravaggio, the thief, tries to reimagine who he
Paperback, 305 pages
Published November 30th 1993 by Vintage (first published September 1992)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The English Patient, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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.

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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  103,890 ratings  ·  4,131 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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
Will Byrnes
Nov 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Henry Avila
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jaline - (on 2/3 hiatus)
“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 help
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
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
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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
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
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
Dean the Bibliophage

The English Patient is a novel of historical fiction written by Michael Ondaatje, author of Warlight that was recently longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Ondaatje’s contribution to literature has been recognised with The English Patient being awarded the Golden Booker, beating the likes of V.S. Naipaul’s In a Free State and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall to take the top prize. In perusing the vast array of literary fiction at my local bookstore, the acclaim and accolades bestowed upon the novel per
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
Nenia ☠️ Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Protector of Out of Print Gems, Mother of Smut, and Actual Garbage Can ☠️ Campbell

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

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
If this book doesn't make you an Ondaatje fan, then nothing will! Wish I still had it, worth another read I'm sure.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Previous review: Down By the River Where the Dead Men Go Pelecanos
Next review: Erasmus of Rotterdam Zweig
More recent review: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide

Previous library review: Life of Pi
Next library review: Americanah
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-lit, 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
Matthew Quann
The English Patient, which I finished off last night, has me thinking about how I review books. In one sense, The English Patient made a pretty significant impact on me with rich imagery, strong writing style, and thematically dense storytelling. By contrast, there were many moments where I wanted to give up on the book for its incessantly floral, almost poetic writing, and the constant references to a text with which I was wholly unfamiliar. The ending, I thought, was very good and helped me vi ...more
Ova - Excuse My Reading
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.

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
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 on your lips, you see those strange patterns on those timeless sands, how I longed for water on my lips, just a sip, but it eluded me. I was there amidst those dunes and among those Bedouins.
I gave a start when Kip came storming into the ruined villa with beautiful frescoes on the walls and as Hanna played the piano. I was there, with my heart in my mouth, wherever and whenever Kip, the young Indian sapper defused bombs in odd places, a pian
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Literary Award Wi...: The English Patient, chapters 1 - 5 5 11 Feb 27, 2019 02:48PM  
English level test for the learners acts as a mirror! 1 3 Jan 24, 2019 06:12AM  
Reading 1001: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje 3 15 Jan 18, 2019 05:46PM  
Literary Award Wi...: The English Patient, chapters 6 to the end 4 8 Dec 07, 2018 12:23AM  
101 Books to Read...: The English Patient 7 8 Oct 24, 2018 11:14AM  
raynor garage door openers 1 6 Jul 20, 2017 01:27AM  
What makes you like this book. 1 14 Nov 12, 2016 07:13AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Saville
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Fugitive Pieces
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • G.
  • The Elected Member
  • Last Orders
  • Something to Answer For
  • The Old Devils
  • Staying On
  • In a Free State
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
  • Moon Tiger
  • How Late it Was, How Late
  • Anna Karenina
  • Troubles
  • Sacred Hunger (Sacred Hunger #1)
  • The Conservationist
See similar books…
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
“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.” 3091 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.”
More quotes…