Saturday, July 16, 2011
1992 - The English Patient
The English Patient won the Governor General’s Award in Canada and shared the Booker Prize with Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger in 1992. It’s an enchantment, one that made it very difficult for me to tear myself away from it. So you can imagine my astonishment when I saw some consumer reviews that claimed to have hated the book, dismissing it as pretentious or frustrating. I didn’t read much of this criticism (too depressing! too inane!) but I got the impression that these readers disliked having to ‘put together pieces of a jigsaw’.
Well, there are readers who like things to be straightforward (as if life is like that) and there are those who enjoy a carefully constructed artifice that gradually reveals the complexity of characters and events. In this tale of four people damaged by the loss of innocence that inevitably accompanies war, Ondaatje has woven fragments of their past lives into their uncertain present as they themselves reveal it (as, in life, we do). It is a beautiful story which creates a romantic setting out of a ruined Italian villa booby-trapped by the mines of the retreating German army, and juxtaposes it with the pre-war heroic age of discovery in the harsh deserts of Egypt and Libya.
To read the rest of my review, please visit my ANZ LitLovers blog.
I read and blogged this Booker Prize winner on July 17th 2011.
Cross-posted at GoodReads.
Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers