Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje



I remember trying 2 or 3 times to watch this movie when it made it to HBO or some cable channel years ago. I never finished it. So, when I saw it was on that 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list I thought it was worth a second look, but in book form this time. Well, I made it!

My Version of the Story

Very damaged people come together at the end of World War II in a villa in Tuscanny over a badly burned pilot who could not be moved when the Allies moved out. Two have known each other before.  Hana, the nurse who stayed with the patient, and Caravaggio, a theif, knew each other back home in Toronto. The  Indian (British) Royal Engineers sapper (defuses bombs) trained under the guy who was likely the inspiration for “Q” in the James Bond books and movies.

Through flashbacks the story is told in halting bursts. Just as soon as I’d get ahold of the story in my mind, it would slip away. “Elusive” is not the half of it! Spies, a love affair, and an unconventional bomb expert’s training methods are among the rabbit trails this story goes down. I honestly sorted it all out by reading the Wikipedia account when I was finished listening to the book!

My Thoughts

Like with Remains of the Day, it is hard to criticize a book that won so many awards. But reading a book and critiquing it are different things. I found this unnecessarily confusing. Call me a dullard. Call me stupid even. I needed a to make a map to get the story of the mapmaker (the very English patient–except he wasn’t) back on course.

This is the second of Ondaatje’s books I’ve read. It’s probably the last. He’s just not my cup of tea, no matter how much talent he obviously has. I pretty much hated The Cat’s Table and The English Patient left me exhausted from trying to keep it all straight.

My Rating

Given for the writing, not the storytelling.


The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

4 thoughts on “Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

  1. Ah that’s a shame. This is one of my favourite three Booker winners. But I do understand your comments about how confusing the narrative is – I know there were times when I had to stop and re-read. The story about the Indian sapper was the most engaging for me.

    Liked by 1 person

I enjoy reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s