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Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The only way to read during a blizzard :)
     Beautiful writing and intensity of feeling were the major traits of this novel.  It is set in an abandoned Italian villa after World War II.  The villa is inhabited by a Canadian nurse, Hana, and a war patient whose entire body has been burned black.  Hana has chosen to nurse him alone rather than return home.  The patient is erudite and appears to be English.  Two other men, an Italian thief and a Sikh sapper, stumble upon and move in with them eventually.
     These five characters slowly reveal the traumas of their lives to one another.  But the most captivating story of all is that of the English patient, who narrates in bits and pieces his life in the desert and the love affair that changed it.  The speaking style of the patient is tense, intimate, and precise.  For example, while at the edge of a great loss, he "feels that everything is missing from his body, feels he contains smoke.  All that is alive is the knowledge of future desire and want" (157). This description of his pre-grief floored me.  Lots of other passages floored me as well. I admire Ondaatje's use of commas (which is a weird thing to admire, haha).  He separates images with commas so that his sentences pour into you like waterfalls.
     This book moves slowly, but I didn't mind because it took me on such a beautiful journey.  And by its end, you are rewarded for your patience with lots of plot twists.  Read The English Patient if you want a romance novel/historical thriller with good writing.
     - Carly

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