The English Patient (Vintage International)

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9780679745204: The English Patient (Vintage International)
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Michael Ondaatje's three previous novels have each been met with the highest praise: for their startling narrative inventiveness, the richness of their imagery and emotion, and the spellbinding quality of their language. When "In the Skin of a Lion" was published in 1987, Carolyn Kizer, writing in "The New York Times Book Review," called Ondaatje "a beautiful writer... brilliantly gifted." And Tom Clark wrote in the "San Francisco Chronicle" that "Ondaatje handles fiction with the deceptive touch of a magician." Now, with "The English Patient," he gives us his most stunningly original and lyric novel yet. During the final moments of World War II, in a deserted Italian villa, four people come together: a young nurse, her will broken, all her energy focused on her last, dying patient, a man in whom she has seen something "she wanted to learn, to grow into and hide in.".. the patient: an unknown Englishman, survivor of a plane crash, his mind awash with a life's worth of secrets and passions ... a thief whose "skills" have made him one of the war's heroes, and one of its casualties ... an Indian soldier in the British army, an expert at bomb disposal whose three years at war have taught him that "the only thing safe is himself." Slowly, they begin to reveal themselves to each other, the stories of their pasts and of the present unfolding in scene after haunting scene, taking us into the Sahara, the English countryside, down the streets of London during the Blitz, into the makeshift army hospitals of Italy, and through the battered gardens and rooms of the villa. And with these stories, Ondaatje weaves a complex tapestry of image and emotion, recollection and observation: the paths anddetails of four diverse lives caught and changed and now inextricably connected by the brutal, improbable circumstances of war.

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Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as the second world war ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of sheet lightning. In lyrical prose informed by a poetic consciousness, Michael Ondaatje weaves these characters together, pulls them tight, then unravels the threads with unsettling acumen.

A book that binds readers of great literature, The English Patient secured the Booker Prize for author Ondaatje. The poet and novelist has also written In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid; two collections of poems, The Cinnamon Peeler and There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do; and a memoir, Running in the Family.

Review:

"A rare and spellbinding web of dreams." --Time

"Sensuous, mysterious, rhapsodic, it transports the reader to another world . . . . Ondaatje's most probing examination yet of the nature of identity." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Mr. Ondaatje [is] one of North America's finest novelists . . . . The spell of his haunted villa remains with us, inviting us to reread passages for the pure pleasure of being there." --Wall Street Journal

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