The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

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The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

Set in 1945, The English Patient explores the lives of four very disparate wartorn people, a young woman and three men, who take refuge in a damaged v...

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Review of "The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje"

published 24/08/2017 | ravingreviewer
Member since : 28/03/2014
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Pro High level of information.
Cons But is very confusing to read.
very helpful
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"More confusing than a consultation with your GP."

The English Patient is a novel written in 1992 by Michael Ondaatje, who is a Canadian poet and novelist who was born in Sri Lanka - this is his most well known work after its being adapted in to a film in 1996, but he has also written such works as Coming Through Slaughter and Running in the Family.

Without wishing to give away too much of the plot, the basics of the book are that it is centred around one major character with three other characters - these are just as important in terms of what happens during the course of the story, although it is the effects of the main character that cause them to come to the fore.

The book is set in the Italian campaign than took place during the Second World War, and is centred around the main character who is a badly burned male patient and who is thought to be English (hence the name of the film). As a result of his accident, the only thing that he has with him is an old book - Herodotus's The Histories, which is an account in itself of the Persian Empire and the events and struggles that surrounded it including wars/ battles and suchlike.

This is read to the patient, who in turn has many flashbacks to his own experiences before he was injured in the parachute accident - but this proves to be very confusing for the reader, as the events very quickly change between his past efforts and the trials or events of the current war effort. These have a strong effect on his nurse who is the one who does the reading to him besides providing his nursing care, who in turn builds up relationships with other people - perhaps in some ways wrongly owing to having had a nervous breakdown and throwing herself in to work, but these other people include a Canadian thief who has other intentions towards her and an Indian Sikh (who actually becomes her lover).

Although the results of the war and its varying attacks on in many cases very unsuspecting individuals are out of the hands or control of the people within the book, they all leave and face their own personal struggles in other ways as a result of the war - the disgust at Westerners on bombing those innocent people in Japan; people having affairs or being in love with other people in the book, or indeed even facing death either as a direct or an indirect result of the war.

However I have to say that all in all, this is an extremely confusing book - and is one that even after reading it a number of time I still cannot quite get my head around it, thus only really keeping it is a standby if all else fails. The copy of the book that I have got was bought for fifty pence at a local charity shop, although my copy has the grand sum of £6.99 on the back of it - although of course, it could be sold for other amounts in other places. I don't really wish to recommend it as a normal run of the mill read to anyone, apart from those who maybe perhaps are an English scholar or similar or you are very good at trying to work out what is actually going on.

Thanks for reading!

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Comments on this review

  • RICHADA published 04/11/2017
    Think you need a new GP! R.
  • Pointress published 03/10/2017
  • elwood_jones published 29/09/2017
    Didn't care for the film, so good to know the book is pretty much the same
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Product Information : The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

Manufacturer's product description

Set in 1945, The English Patient explores the lives of four very disparate wartorn people, a young woman and three men, who take refuge in a damaged villa north of Florence as the war retreats around them. In an upstairs room lies the badly burned English patient, alive but unable to move. His extraordinary adventures and turbulent love affair in the North African desert before the war provide the focus around which the vivid tales of his companions revolve. His very presence will for ever change the destiny of those around him...This is a breathtaking story of love and passion that twists through London's Blitz and the intricacies of bomb disposal, through the mysterious, often dangerous world of desert exploration. Beautifully read by internationally acclaimed actor Ralph Fiennes who also starred in the multi Oscar winning film by Anthony Minghella.

Product Details

Author: Michael Ondaatje

Title: The English Patient

Genre: Historical Fiction

Type: Fiction

ISBN: 0330327542; 0330330276; 0330349937; 074751254X; 0747572593


Listed on Ciao since: 18/08/2001