Thursday, 17 May 2012

Book Review: The English Patient

This story is set around the second world war, a setting which I personally adore when reading novels, but the two locations are pretty unorthodox, as the novel is split between Northern Africa and Italy. Within an abandoned villa in Italy lives Hana, a Canadian nurse, whom is treating a man referred to as ‘the English patient’- his identity is completely blackened out from the surrounding characters, physically and verbally, as the man is unrecognisably burnt after enduring a plane crash and refuses to reveal his identity, the only possession he has is an annotated copy of Herodotus’ ‘Histories’ containing details of his time spent in the desert. The other characters are Caravaggio, a friend of Hana’s father, who served for the British Intelligence during the war and the sapper, Kip, a Sikh soldier whom is working to dispose the unexploded bombs surrounding the area. The novel has one of the most powerful narrative frameworks I’ve  met in a long time, it glides between past and present, conversation and description like water, it feels like it was written so effortlessly (when you know it most certainly was not!) The skill of narration is by far Ondaatje’s finest quality, however the story itself certainly doesn’t fall short of the heights established my his authoritative talent. This type of novel is one which I like to categorise as a soul novel, one which is read as easily as one breathes. You live these types of novels, you’re there in these novels, it sinks in as easily as a calming film would. There is no vicious fighting, but it doesn’t lack action, and there is no inner turmoil of fetish fantasies and rampant sex, there is natural romance. Everything abut this novel is so realistic you don’t feel like you’re being told a tale, you see it instead. This is certainly up there in my favourite novels, it’s a fantastic read and I am thoroughly looking forward to reading it again soon.  ★★★★★

1 comment:

  1. It's one of my favourite books too, I just love the way it's written - so poetic! :)
    You should definitely check out the film as well. I think it transfers the athmosphere of the novel very well, and Ralph Fiennes as the English patient is of course absolutely amazing.