The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

76%

17 Critic Reviews

Canadian poet/novelist Ondaatje...assembles, mosaic-fashion, the lives of four occupants of an Italian villa near Florence at the end of WW II...A challenging, disorienting, periodically captivating journey without maps, best when least showy, as in the marvelous account of Kip's adoption by an eccentric English peer, his bomb-disposal instructor.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Michael Ondaatje

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Michael Ondaatje is the author of eleven books of poetry, a memoir, and six novels, including The Cat's Table, coming in October 2011. He lives in Toronto. Pico Iyer is the author of two novels and seven works of nonfiction. His new book, The Man Within My Head, comes out in 2012.
 
Published April 6, 2011 by Vintage. 322 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, War, History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Romance. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The English Patient
All: 17 | Positive: 14 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

Canadian poet/novelist Ondaatje...assembles, mosaic-fashion, the lives of four occupants of an Italian villa near Florence at the end of WW II...A challenging, disorienting, periodically captivating journey without maps, best when least showy, as in the marvelous account of Kip's adoption by an eccentric English peer, his bomb-disposal instructor.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Sam Jordison on Mar 04 2011

But the thing that impressed me most as I read the book this time around is its hard centre. It may come wrapped in musky perfume, but Ondaatje's prose could go a few rounds with Hemingway...This is a book to be savoured, re-read and remembered. It is wonderful. I'm going to be very curious to see how Sacred Hunger measures up.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Sam Jordison on Mar 04 2011

Even so, viewed through the reverse telescope of history it seems surprising that Ondaatje's novel had to share the prize. Especially since it's so damn good.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Jan 27 2009

You may think you “see” the picture in front of you, but not until the very end will you comprehend what it really is. This is not an easy effect to achieve in storytelling, but Ondaatje handles it masterfully.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Jan 27 2009

The character of the English patient is based on a real-life individual, as is his love interest Katharine. But the story as presented in Michael Ondaatje’s novel bears only the most vague resemblance to the lives these individuals actually led.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by L.S. Klepp on Nov 20 1992

But the life of the book is in the desert, where the burned man had been an explorer before the war...His stories aren’t entirely believable, but they become compelling...The novel finally succeeds as a celebration of the solitude to be found in deserts, dangerous machines, and unrequited love...

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The Independent

Good
Reviewed by Edmund White on Sep 20 1992

Like coral, Ondaatje's narrative is built up slowly into towers and branches and hidden chambers, fashioning a delicate grisaille of memory and passion...This is the best piece of fiction in English I've read in several years, idiosyncratic but sturdy, and throbbing with emotion and humanity.

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The Independent

Below average
Reviewed by ROBERT WINDER on Sep 10 1992

All these nostalgic glances are sculpted with immense care, but they leave us feeling a little like sun-struck travellers on a guided tour of the monuments...sometimes, as here, it is almost too determined to be elliptical.

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People

Above average
on Dec 14 1992

As if falling into the arms of a stranger, you discover the mirror of your own choice." Indeed, this sentiment of seeing one's reflection in another so different is key to understanding the powerful ellipses of Ondaatje's beautifully written novel.

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London Review of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Nicholas Spice on Sep 24 1992

One man’s overwriting is another man’s poetry, but in my view Ondaatje allows himself too much latitude in the direction of high-sounding prose. In its poetic vein his writing tends to self-parody, to be portentous, and to create an air of solemnity which tempts irreverence.

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http://skrishnasbooks.com

Good
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on May 02 2009

The novel is very slow, but in a way that is appropriate for the story. It’s about characters, not about the plot. Ondaatje’s writing is gorgeous. He has a way of carefully peeling back the layers of a story, focusing on vignettes and disparate images...it was definitely a worthwhile read and I highly recommend it!

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http://www.bookdrum.com

Above average
Reviewed by sammills on Jul 26 2015

After I'd finished reading The English Patient my mind felt coloured with vivid images: Hanna sitting in the ruined villa, on a half-ruined staircase filled in with books...It is a work of extraordinary imagination, so soaked in ideas, character and gorgeous language that I can read it again and again and always find something new to delight in.

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Book Review Circle

Good
Reviewed by Nivea Samuel on Jul 26 2015

The book is a captivating narration which directly links the reader to a wide variety of incidents that are simultaneously emotional, historical and political, thus urging the reader to see each incident as an outcome of the varied circumstances around him/her and not as a detached result of the doings of just the heart or the mind.

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Beth Fish Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Beth F on May 03 2009

I found the book slow going and unsatisfying over all. I had difficulty making an emotional investment in the characters, and thus I wasn't really curious about their ultimate fate...I am not at all sorry to have read The English Patient. Do I actually recommend it? That's hard to say. It is a book worth trying.

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Of Books and Reading

Excellent
Reviewed by thehungryreader on May 01 2013

The lines are almost poetic in nature. The setting is almost surreal. With every page you turn, you can only anticipate what is to come next and when it does, it takes your breath away...Reading this book is almost like a dream-like experience. It is almost a feeling of déjà vu and yet you want to keep carrying on.

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The Oddness of Moving Things Blog

Good
Reviewed by Geoff W on Sep 20 2011

Although the brutal acts of the war make appearances...the story focuses more on the internal struggle of the four characters. ...Overall, I thought it was beautifully crafted and as true to WWII as I could imagine. Having never seen the movie and only adding the book to my list as a Booker prize-winning novel, I’m glad I read it...

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Books And Movie Review

Below average
Reviewed by PROTIK BASU on May 05 2009

The first problem I have is that I like the characters in a book to speak for themselves and not have the writer say it and make it obvious. Secondly, the characters left me cold except on certain occasions...You saw the ending before it came. The narrative was disjointed and beginning-ending was rambling at time.

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Reader Rating for The English Patient
75%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 499 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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