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The English Patient [Paperback]

Michael Ondaatje
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (233 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 27 1993 039428013X 978-0394280134 1
With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal,and rescue illuminates this book like flashes of heat lightening.

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The English Patient + In the Skin of a Lion
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Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as World War II ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning. In lyrical prose informed by a poetic consciousness, Michael Ondaatje weaves these characters together, pulls them tight, then unravels the threads with unsettling acumen.

A book that binds readers of great literature, The English Patient garnered the Booker Prize for author Ondaatje. The poet and novelist has also written In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid; two collections of poems, The Cinnamon Peeler and There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do; and a memoir, Running in the Family. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian author Ondaatje offers a poetic novel set in a desolate Italian villa in the final days of WWII--a one-week PW bestseller--and an evocative account of a visit with his family in Sri Lanka.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Brilliant May 19 2002
Format:Paperback
Ondaatje is a superb writer. The English Patient is a brilliant book. Ondaatje's genius is to reveal characters as people are revealed in life - not in linear chronological narratives, but in glimpes, flashes of lightning, disconnected anecdotes. Sometimes contradictory, always fascinating. The book takes the shape of these disparate images and recollections slowly coalescing to form four protagonists: Hana the Canadian nurse, Almasy the English Patient, Caravaggio the thief, and Kip the Sikh deminer. They are isolated from the world in a postwar Italian villa, each with subtle motives defined by Ondaatje's profound attention to detail.
The prose is evocative, like Almasy's comment on Kipling: to be read slowly and then reread. Images and scenes slowly take shape like a jigsaw puzzle. It is not until the final few pages that we finally learn what compels Hana to tend so devotedly to the mortally-burned English Patient, it is not until the final pages that Kip reviews his dedication to the British war cause. The characters' evolutions come slowly and naturally as Almasy's stories of the desert catalyze the entire book.
The movie is not this book. Read the book - it's brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Descriptions of Beauty June 2 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A beautifully written multi-layered story of love, loss, war, and sadness. Whether writing about the simple pleasures in life or the sorrow circumstances bring upon us Ondaatje does so with a prose of simple beauty that not many can. Since you have probably seen the wonderful film (unless you live in a cave) I won't detail the story. This is by far the best of this author's work. Something will seem unfinished at the end of this book and perhaps that is the point. War creates boundaries and disrupts the possibilities of life. Ondaatje's prose is told as though an eloquent angel were telling us the events taking place in that war torn Villa in Italy where Hana cares for "The English Patient". This is the unusual case where the film IS as good as the book and only enhances your enjoyment of reading it, allowing you to picture the people and the places of this quietly heartbreaking novel. In the end, Hana's heart will keep returning to that moment in time, unable to move on from what might have been were it not for war. This is a beautiful book and an absolute Must Read........
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unfold it, it's worth it.... Jan. 15 2002
Format:Paperback
This, as my teacher told us, is a novel one must reread every five years or so.
Not a quick or easy read, The English Patient one of those books written in language so distilled, so concentrated, that one phrase can be explicated for pages. Its images, many of which I do not yet understand and many of which I'm sure I missed this time through, slip in and out of your consciousness long after you've finished the novel. The effect is that of someone tugging gently on your sleeve and saying "hey, pay attention -- this is important, this is what meaning is made of."
The story is that of 4 characters who have come to inhabit a bombed-out, ruined and abandoned Italian villa towards the end of world war 2. With supreme skill as a storyteller, Ondaatje dips us into their pasts, so that we are made aware of their stories snapshot by snapshot; this is particularly true of the mysterious nameless faceless 'English patient', a severe burn victim with a deep, secretive history.
There is such power in this novel I'd like to bottle its spirit, its poetry and its beauty, and carry it with me. This book is IMPORTANT to me. I cannot say any more than that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning certainly, but his best?? Feb. 3 2001
By Kate
Format:Paperback
I love Ondaatje's work, but there is none better than 'In the skin of a lion', there is no book more deserving of any award, including this one.
I have began and put down this book so frequently it is already dog-eared from my constant indecision. I think I feared that perhaps I would be disapppointed.
I adore both'In the Skin of a Lion' and 'Anil's Ghost' (to an extent) and I thought the film was amazingly beautiful. I must admit, I was slightly disappointed, but certainly, I could never regret finally reading the piece. There is a beauty captured many books, and no author captures the beauty of words and creates a more stunning and remembered image than Ondaatje.
I hate history books. Certainly, I see the importance of recording history, but I am far from a budding historian. This book has a substantial portion devoted to the events surrounding the second world war. I also hate sand and probably would despise deserts should I one day find the need to venture into one. This book has a substantial portion devoted to the desert. So we began on bad terms.
But there is more to this novel than sand and history; there is striking romanticism on several levels, wonderfully crafted descriptions and stunningly vivid characters. There is immense heartbreak and a fine weave of several sub stories. It is deep rich and vivid and worth reading. Particularly if you like sand, history and explosives. (Thankfully he hit a note with me there.)
'In the Skin of a lion' seems that tiny bit better, but I would have no hestitations in reccommending either, or any, of Ondaatje's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My succinct review June 19 2001
Format:Paperback
I will endeavor to keep this review as brief as possible:
I have not read that many books, to be honest with you; but Ondaatje's "The English Patient" is the most enjoyable of all the ones that I have read.
Ondaatje's style is unique and one can see that this is a poet at work; the breadth of his vocabulary is immense and his extravagant use of poetic devices make the book a work of art. Suffice it to say that I have never read a novel which incorporates so much of the literary scope into one product: this is not just a novel; it's poetry and art as well.
The only thing I did not like about this book is that, at times it can go off topic a bit and become quite drab- but this is the exception rather than the rule, and the novel as a whole is very enjoyable.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I like it so much~~~
Very quick and book is preserved well,
perfect at this price, and my friend seemed very satisfied with this gift
super recommend
Published 9 months ago by Xingyu Xia
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex and Beautifully Written
Twenty-year-old Hana is living in an isolated villa outside Tuscany. It's 1945 and the Germans have retreated, leaving mines and burned-out buildings behind. Read more
Published on June 30 2012 by Debra Purdy Kong
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the movie. (And I NEVER say that.)
I read this in the early 90s because it was required in a university class. I'm REALLY thankful that my professor introduced me to this story. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2011 by David Sabine
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful novel
I come late to reading award-winning author, Michael Ondaatje, and decided to discover his story-telling ability through a familiar tale, that of the award-winning film made from... Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2011 by Lorina Stephens
4.0 out of 5 stars Allow the book to happen....
I just finished this book and I must say you can clearly see the author's poetical style in his prose. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2009 by Thom Jaskula
5.0 out of 5 stars Complicated, dense, poetic, erotic, wow, wow, wow!
Don't miss this - and don't miss the movie, either.
The English Patient is a completely enthralling novel of war, honor, romance, and courage. Read more
Published on June 12 2003 by Peggy Vincent
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly Gorgeous
"The English Patient" is, without a doubt, one of my very favorite books. It is lush, beautiful and gorgeous. Read more
Published on April 12 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Maps and Borders
Director Minghella may have had a lot to thank Ondaatje's writing for the inspired technical brilliance of the movie version of "The English Patient". Read more
Published on March 21 2002 by shobdobonik
4.0 out of 5 stars Seductive prose, but what's beyond?
A strange book, this novel. I read it twice in the space of a few years. On my first reading I was mesmerised by Ondaatje's beautifully suggestive prose and the ravishing exoticism... Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2002 by Philippe Vandenbroeck
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a story about love above all
While the English Patient explores a panoramic story line - covering the deserts and bazaars, the ravages of World War II on two continents, the languid days and haunted nights -... Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2001 by Megami
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