Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Where I Bought : Popular BookFest 2013
Price : RM12
Rating : 5/5 stars

My love for “The English Patient” begins from the movie. I remember watching it in 2 parts on TV when I was in high school. The beautiful love stories set upon war time desert and Italy deeply engraved in my mind.

When I came across this book on sale, I was surprised that the movie was an adaptation from a novel.

I have to buy and read this book!

I took my time reading this historical fiction, savouring the bare description of the desert and abandoned Italian villa; attracted to facts about the desert and mechanism of war put forth by the author.

It was the war torn 1940s. A man has been discovered from a plane crash in the African desert, burnt beyond recognition, rescued by the nomads and later put under care by a young Canadian nurse named Hana in a forsaken Italian villa. Nobody knows the origin of the charred man, except that he is English.

Hana reads to him books from the bombarded library. Hana also reads to him Herodotus — The Histories which belongs to the English patient, filled with collages, scraps and like him, survived the fire.

The author crafts labouriously into the scarred landscape of Florence by deadly blasts, the lonely villa once a nunnery, now occupied by the oddest combination of a patient haunted by his memories of the desert expedition and past, and a nurse who is losing herself by the numbing truth of war, finding solace in the English patient she cared for.

At the turn of the book, these two souls are joined in by Hana’s uncle — Caravaggio, who came searching for her after news reached him; and two young Sappers, one an Indian Sikh named Kip, who worked nearby dismantling bombs and mines. Kip gets along fairly well with the English patient and close to Hana as he shaved his days off locating mines around the villa.

Recollection of the patient’s journey in the desert and past love affair, the nurse’s childhood memories, Caravaggio’s past deeds and Kip’s military life away from India are told in an out of sequence manner. Subtlety in the relationship between these four main characters of different nations are stories left for reader’s interpretation. Interestingly the reader will learn about the real identity of the English patient by assembling clues left by the author.

My review may not do justice to the marvelously written prose of beauty and factually referred works of this book.

I would highly recommend you to pick up this literary piece and bury your head into it, if you like a tragic love story and equivocal relationship weaved in the African desert and a war ravaged Italy.


8 thoughts on “Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

  1. Pingback: 2015 Popsugar Reading Challenge | Little Calico's Journal

  2. Pingback: Catch Of The Day — RM5 Fiesta Book Haul | Little Calico's Journal

    • Yup a little mysterious about the patient’s background and identity which I indulged in finding out. I may pick up this book to read again, love the historical settings and poignant story telling.


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