Van has finished reading…The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

24 Mar

I wonder how much wider but partial knowledge of a book can put you off reading it. Have you seen the film? Have you heard of the film in some vague way and so thought, hmmm, it’ll be this type or that type? I confess this book is not what I expected it to be. From the opening paragraphs I was pulled in. The prose is rangy and sparse, borderless. It is exquisite.

The use of motifs is sublime, with elementals colouring the view of each of the characters-in-transformation. We see how air steals across the page, almost unnoticed – even to the extent of approaching war being likened to a hand at an attic window. And stone is the saving grace of young Kip, what he clings to in those drifting moments, his protector, the thing that grounds him and keeps him alive. Water is everywhere. Even in its desert absence it lies hidden, its ability both to mould a thing, and to mould around a thing a celebration of that for which we hunger most.

You’d think it would be a depressing read, were you to scan the plot of the tale, but it’s not. It’s wholeheartedly human, and so fragile but persistent and ultimately affirming. If you’ve not read it, read it. If you’ve not read it recently, read it again. Recommend it to someone. It’s a thing of beauty.


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