The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje – Book Review

The English Patient

I have a confession; The English Patient is my favorite movie of all time and I have seen it numerous times but until this week, I had never read the book before.  I am someone that ALWAYS reads the book before seeing the movie so I am totally surprised at myself that I purchased the book and read it straight away even though the book was first published in 1992 back when I was 27.

Looking on Goodreads, it appears that the majority of readers either love this book and it receives 4 or 5 stars or readers hate the book and give it one star.  There are not very many 3 stars, middle of the road ratings.

I had always been dubious about reading this book simply because I had heard that it was so different from the movie and that the movie was better.  Since I loved the movie, my attitude was “why wreck a good thing”, however, I am so glad that I finally read this masterpiece.

It is different from the movie, but not so drastically that I found it maddening.  In fact, I believe that seeing the movie before reading the book helped me in understanding the book and the characters even more.

It is a complex, passionate love story between a man who has been burnt beyond recognition and can no longer remember his name and a woman who belongs to another.  The man is called the English patient because he has somewhat of a British accent and a young nurse by the name of Hana is assigned to care for him at an abandoned villa in Tuscany shortly after the Germans have retreated from Italy during World War II.  There is also a tentative, tender love story between Hana and the young sapper, Kip, who is responsible for finding and dismantling bombs and land mines.

Having read the book, I now understand why it has won so many awards.  Ondaatje did a wonderful job inter-weaving fiction with actual real-life persons and their stories, along with little known facts that actually occurred during the war.

Love it or hate it, what category do you fall into?

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