I was delightfully introduced to the world of The English Patient gradually, over an extended period, first in 1996 by being drawn into the story’s richness by Anthony Minghella’s beautiful film and screenplay in the theaters and then again in 2004 when I listened to the author's mellow voice, reading selections of his novel for the Collector’s Series DVD Bonus Material; the sound of his prose simply mesmerized me. I had read ‘The English Patient’ and other Ondaatje stories previously and I'd seen the film several times but Pico Iyer’s vivid Introduction in this Everyman’s Library Edition of 2011 boldly welcomed me back into the depth and the beauty of the author’s words.
The movie and book are two different animals and they are both masterpieces and can both stand on their own. The book is presented in three story-lines, independent and intersecting at the same time. That much character development would not have made a good movie. The story lines of Hana, Kip and Caravaggio are as unique and interesting as that of the English patient whose story brings them all together and intersect. While the Drama of each of their lives could be a story in itself and the specificity of the English patient, strangely, is not even needed to for they story arch...it could have been other things...but the saga of the English patient and the mystery of his life and identity interweaves and drives their more mundane life struggles. It's story, story, story and the English patient's narrative is a powerful driver.
Missing or short-changed in the movie are the deeper story of Hana dealing with the trauma of her father's death, Kip's story of trying...
An extremely difficult book to read because I am unfamiliar with the landscape of war torn Italy, the strange names, dates, references. Infused with poetry, lyrical language used by author Ondaatje, I was often lost. Four major characters, including the charred "English patient" filled the bulk of the story. The story of Singh sapper impressed me most for the death defying life saving debombing he did. Most of all, his indignation over west nuking Nagasaki and Hiroshima left also stirred great indignation in myself over US's great crime against humanity. Fighting evil with infinite greater evil must never be be condoned and forgotten so easily by the world.
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