English Patient

The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

The story itself isn't that interesting or complex, but the writing makes up for it with some very nice prose here and there, as well as, at some points very moving descriptions of the various relationships.

On the other hand there is this part towards the end, when the focus suddenly is shifted to the description of trivia from the training days of the soldier/sapper Kip. At this point I almost gave up on the whole book, because the title character's story arc is complete, we know what happens to him, the only detail that is not revealed is why is he burned (but that doesn't get revealed at the end either, or maybe I was not paying enough attention, but I never found out), and maybe what happens to Kip and Hanna. But that's about it.

And then the author suddenly decides to dedicate about a chapter's worth to Kip's training days, and the description of some really-really boring details of bomb disposal techniques.

My problem with this was that there is zero tension in any of this because we already know that Kip makes it out unharmed out of each of these situations because he is telling these stories to Hanna, we get to find out very little about his character, and none of this helps us understand his decision in the last chapter (at least as far as I am concerned) and lastly, all those descriptions are not even informative, because they are not well written enough to be interesting from a technical point of view and as mentioned before they do not ad to the story from a tension point of view or a character building point of view either. That middle section is honestly a mystery to me. What was the point there? And how can someone who has written non-fiction books before this be so amateurish in presenting that information?


The only reason I didn't give this a four star rating was because of those few chapters where the whole tone of the book so far was ruined with this honestly, badly written section. That and the strange ending of the story which I felt was a bit coloured by the authors perspective on the events a few decades later, when the book was written.

I also felt that the ending to the Kip-Hanna storyline was disappointing and rushed. I don't have to have a happy ending each time but this was rushed and not very well explained.

Maybe the idea was to have a more poetic ending, but all it accomplished was that after an entire book of realistic writing it ends on a strange metaphorical note and when you turn the last page you are not really sure what happened to these characters.

I felt a little ripped off because of this, but as I said the story itself is nice and has some great elements to it, so it's worth a read.


Maybe if I re-read this later I'll read it in a different manner, reading the parts that are worth it, but unfortunately when you read this for the first time you won't know how to do that.

Perhaps this book needed a bit more editing or a bit more compromise from the author in the editing process.