So I think we can all tell that I’ve mostly been knitting recently (not particularly conducive to knitting at the same time) but I did finish The English Patient this past week.
Michael Ondaatje has beautiful prose. Really, truly gorgeous prose. Like Divisadero, even when something terrible is going on, reading it is gorgeous and startling. This book is about secrets, both from yourself, and from others. In a Florentine mansion in Italy, four people find their lives intersecting in the years following the second World War. Hana, the nurse, lost in her own life, caring for the burned beyond recognition English patient because she couldn’t care for her own father when he was burned and died. Caraveggio, the maimed thief, wanders unknowingly back into the life of Hana, an old friend’s daughter. And Kip, the Indian sapper who has lost his nearest and dearest to the bombs he has dedicated his life to disabling. Theirs is an awkward dance of connect and disconnect, where they reveal everything but articulate nothing.
The problem with Ondaatje’s “water-like” prose is that there is a distinct lack of continuity. It’s hard to tell what is happening as we watch and what has happened in the past. Without a liberal (or even just a little less stingy) use of names, it is often hard to tell who the she and he and him and her and they is that we are discussing. The result is that when you get to the end of a chapter, you feel compelled to page back through in mild confusion, wondering where you lost the thread. But you didn’t. Most of the time, the thread wasn’t there to begin with.
So while I enjoyed this book, and I really appreciate Ondaatje’s genius, I was disappointed.
Books read so far this year – 63
Numbers of books I should have read by now – 66
Library books that are currently overdue – 1
Trains I will be taking to Memphis this weekend – 1 (Yay, Emy!!)