July 30, 2011

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Title:  The English Patient
Author:  Michael Ondaatje
Format:  PB
Pages:  301
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher:  Vintage, 1993
ISBN-13:  978-0679745204
Series:  Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  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.

Synopsis (Amazon):  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 is, now that his hands are hopelessly maimed. The Indian sapper Kip searches for hidden bombs in a landscape where nothing is safe but himself. And at the center of his labyrinth lies the English patient, nameless and hideously burned, a man who is both a riddle and a provocation to his companions—and whose memories of suffering, rescue, and betrayal illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.

Review:  This book is as beautifully written as it is unsettling.  Four people, torn apart in differing ways by the war, are thrown together and forced to live a strange half-life.

The writing style is poetic and, at times, difficult to understand and follow.  The dialogue is almost never punctuated with quotation marks, so I was often left unsure if it was really dialogue or just a character's thoughts.  This was a tough read, both emotionally and because of the depth of the language, but the descriptions of the scenery left me breathless and the insights into the characters were wonderful.

As a choice for a Read-A-Thon, it was perhaps not my best choice since this is not a book I could read quickly.  This is a book where I needed to reread each passage two times to really comprehend it in its entirety.  I do wish the story had been less difficult to read.  But, it's also been on my list of books I've wanted to read for quite a while, so I am pleased I read it and I did enjoy the experience.  Unfortunately, I didn't love it as much as I wanted to.

Rating:  7.5 / 10 

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