No Spoiler Book Review of the Beautiful, Curious, Booker Prize Winning – The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
Title: The English Patient
Author: Michael Ondaatje
Copyright: 1992 Michael Ondaatje
Blurb: The final curtain is closing on the Second World War, and Hana, a nurse, stays behind in an abandoned Italian villa to tend to her only remaining patient. Rescued by Bedouins from a burning plane, he is English, anonymous, damaged beyond recognition and haunted by his memories of passion and betrayal.
The only clue Hana has to his past is the one thing he clung on to through the fire – a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, covered with hand-written notes describing a painful and ultimately tragic love affair.
Plot – fiction book:
This book has been on my reading list for a while, once I started reading it rang a bell. I think I must have read it years ago, but I’m not surprised I’d forgotten.
Before I watch any movie or TV adaptations I try to read the book. This frees me to immerse myself in the writer’s original work and, importantly, my own imagination. This is a story of deception, memory, old loves, friendships and romances interlink in a confusion of gorgeous phrases, chapters and scenes. It’s a beautifully written lyrical book. The words evoke images of a damaged hot dry landscape, horrors of war and historic damaged architecture. Each page holds another joy.
How lovely is this ‘…The book lay on her lap. She realised that for more thanfive minutes she had been looking at the porousness of the paper, the crease at the corner of page 17 which someone had folded over as a mark. She brushed her hand over its skin. A scurry in her mind like a mouse in the ceiling, a moth on the night window.’
Or how about ‘…Bluebottles stumble in the air and bang into humans as if slamming into a wall, then retreat unconcerned.’
Amongst so many, I think my favourite extract is a view of how lovers and friends can experience deja vu, imagined or real previous meetings. How the time has to be right for things to ‘click’ even though you may have met or nearly met at another time and place.
I smiled at a mention of Pelmanism. I hadn’t realised the memory game I play was so ancient. You know the one, you scatter cards over the table,face down, you turn over two cards and try to find a match. I was brilliant in my youth but somehow I always get beaten by my grandbabies just as I was by their mum.
Hana – a nurse with a past, hiding from life
Caravaggio – the author gives a clever reference to a Caravaggio painting, as part of a character profile. I’ve not seen this done before and it worked really well. I may even steal the idea, ideas after all are not copyrighted.
Kip – a Indian serving in the British Army
The English Patient – a twist halfway through the book brings everything you read into a different light
Any of you out there who aspire to write, must read, alot. I include classics, both modern and ancient, in my reading list on Goodreads.
Why had I forgotten reading this book? I’m guessing it’s because it is so confusing. The short breaks, the book includes names of long chapters broken into multiple unnamed chapters. I didn’t always follow who was the narrator, whose point of view I was following.
Once I left the book for a couple of days and it took a while to re-immerse myself in its style.
Yes, it’s wonderful, if deep and bewildering. It’s a must read on the bucket list of books. However I’d definitely try to read it quickly so you keep track.
Let me know how you get on.
You may also like:
Book Review – Hunger Games
You can study this book in depth with Spark Notes. WARNING! SPOILERS IN THIS LINK!
(If you use my links to go to pages such as Amazon, to book your holidays, or investigate software options I earn a small commission. You’re supporting my work, enabling me to continue writing and keep this website and content free to you, thank you!)
I hope I’ve inspired you to buy a book and read more. Tweet me from your next coffee stop! If you are busy out and about and you’d like my posts to your email inbox directly, please sign up for the newsletter.