Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje


It's been a week since I've finished this novel, but I still haven't figured out what I want to say about it. It's certainly a story that stays in one's mind a long time.

Four different people of different ages and nationalities converge under one roof somewhere in Italy as World War II is ending. Hana the exhausted nurse, Caravaggio the thief, Kip the Indian sapper, and the burn victim everyone refers to as "the English patient" become a part of each other's everyday lives and form an unusual but close social set for a precious sliver of time. During these months, the reader is led through a series of flashbacks that illuminate each of their intriguing pasts.

There are so many good and interesting stories created with this time period as the backdrop, but I feel that this one is unique in its ending, specifically the end of the four-way friendship.

The English Patient is written beautifully and sparingly; Michael Ondaatje tells us just enough facts. Nothing is overwritten or revisited, and I found myself hanging on every word.

Actually, I'd like to see the movie again!

3 comments:

Ariel the Thief said...

The patient actually was a real man, gróf Almásy László Ede, a Hungarian earl and explorer. Just saying. *beams*

TLP said...

Hey! Ariel is one smart cookie!

I'm not sure I read the book. I loved the movie.

Doug said...

Seeing the movie was tough after reading the book. It's probably better that you did it the other way. I saw it with my ex and two friends. They hadn't read the book and loved the movie. I hated the movie.

So, Ariel has the same nationality as the patient and the same last name as Carvaggio. I think maybe the book was a letter to her.