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Publisher's Summary

With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminates this audiobook like flashes of heat lightening.
©1992 Michael Ondaatje (P)2007 Books on Tape

What the critics say

"The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje wears the triple crown: it is profound, beautiful and heart-quickening." (Toni Morrison) "There are books that change the shape of literature. The English Patient is such a book." (Books in Canada) "A magic carpet ride of a novel that soars across worlds and times....A rare and spellbinding net of dreams." (Time)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Leslie A. Foote
  • 2007-07-08

4 lives in the aftermath of WWII

This is a wonderfully written book that brings together the lives of 4 people affected differently by the war. It is touching and profound as well as insightful. For those that saw the is completely different in approach. Whereas the movie focused on the plots of individual lives, the book examines their "interior" world. Highly recommended.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • S. Habiel
  • New York, USA
  • 2009-11-20

Both Book and Narrator excellent

I wasn't sure about the book due to earlier reviews, but I want to assure you that the narrator is excellent. I also happen to like the book better than the movie made of it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • IR
  • Thousand Oaks, Ca United States
  • 2017-03-29

Gorgeous and heartbreaking

The writing is gorgeous, that goes without saying. Every turn of phrase was a visual feast for the eyes --and ears in this case. In more than one spot I stopped, went back, and listened again, and again, just because it was so beautifully written.

I came to the story first from the movie. The movie was done so well in every way, as evidenced by how many awards it was given, but it didn't quite seem enough for me to fully understand the relationships between these people. And, it was so well cast that the visual images of each of the characters carried over into the book.

As I suspected, as good as the movie was, this book dove into the heart and soul of each character. Even if they did something that was surprising, I understood it for the simple human frailty that the each revealed. Every frailty was also what was celebrated in each in gentle and elegant ways.

There were certain minor things that confused me about the movie, or that didn't quite ring true and that was because there was only a short time to offer a glimpse of each character without benefit of full history. That was why I wanted to read the book. It was so beautiful and so compelling that I needed to understand more fully what motivated these characters, until they ceased being characters and started being people.

I believe this is one of those rare books that could be picked up again and again, and every time something else will be revealed and I will have a deeper understanding.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer Bould
  • 2016-10-22

If only there was a pause between chapters

This would easily have been 5-star except for the soulless lack of spacing between chapters. Jarring and upsetting the beautiful flow of the prose. The author and the narrator worked so hard to produce this jewel only to be let down by the techs. Can you fix this for others?

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Carole B. Regan
  • Southern California
  • 2015-10-15

Excellent reading; poor editing

Would you listen to The English Patient again? Why?

The narration is excellent: the reader changes his voice so we always know who is speaking. The transition between sections, however, is poorly done: the following section is edited immediately after the preceding one, sometimes "stepping" on it. Yes. I'd listen to this marvelous book again.

What did you like best about this story?

The author crafted his story and skillfully told it through the eyes of a severely burned and bedridden man. He developed the characters so that we feel we know them.

Have you listened to any of Christopher Cazenove’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Have not listened before to the narrator. Will certainly do so in the future.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

An excellent film of this book already exists. It does, however, make several significant changes to the story so it leaves a different message.

Any additional comments?

Needs to be re-edited to leave a few seconds between sections.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Isabella R
  • 2012-04-09

A Book That Will Haunt You Long After You Read It

Brings to full light and fruition all the weighty themes, characters, conflicts and insights that the move could only that the movie could only brushed against lightly. Though very different from the film, I think the screenplay was authentic as it could be with its limitations.

To the ear, Ondaatje's prose flow more like a Bach three part invention with the interweaving of the characters stories in and out, flowing smoothly against an almost cryptic "timeline". But the experiences of love, hate, war, desire and destiny are eternal/universal so story can be picked up or dropped anywhere, and always resonate with the reader.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Halifax, NS, Canada
  • 2011-01-03

Excellent, although accent questionable

An excellent reading of an excellent novel. No, it's not like the film (which I also love); it's a giant prose poem, in which each word is beautifully chosen, and it's a meditation rather than a straightforward plot. Past and present melt in and out, and the war is seen from multiple angles.

The reader is excellent, and gives the Patient a hawk-like arrogance that is quite memorable. My only criticism is that the reader uses an English accent. The book is written by a Canadian, and most of the story is told from the perspective of Canadian characters. Although the reader attempts a Canadian accent during the dialogue sequences, the book is mostly narration, and the use of an English accent for that seemed jarring.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Mary
  • 2012-11-07

A wonderful well-crafted story

Would you consider the audio edition of The English Patient to be better than the print version?

Sorry, I haven't seen print version.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The English Patient?

I enjoyed the building of the characters.

What about Christopher Cazenove’s performance did you like?

Excellent. Perfect for the story

If you could take any character from The English Patient out to dinner, who would it be and why?

The English Patient...there has to be more to his story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kelly
  • 2011-08-19

Very different from the film...

but, in a good way. The prose is commendable and the narrator kept me engaged. So if you are repelled from this book for having seen the film already, don't be.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amira
  • 2018-01-08

the english patient

What did you love best about The English Patient?

The writing was absolutely mesmerizing. I read it years ago when I was much younger and I did not recall how beautiful his writing is. I hated to finish this book. I wanted it to continue.

What did you like best about this story?

All of it. The writing is pure pleasure.

Which scene was your favorite?

All of them. I never lost a moment listening to it.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I never wanted it to end so I would listen to only two chapters per night. The writing, my gosh, the man can write!