Philip Michael Ondaatje is a Canadian poet, essayist, novelist, editor, and filmmaker. Ondaatje was born in 1943 in Sri Lanka. He was raised partly in Sri Lanka and England before he emigrated to Canada in 1962.

He has published many critically acclaimed works throughout his literary career. Some of his award-winning works includes The Collected Work of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter, Anil’s Ghost, The English Patient, and In the Skin of a Lion. Many of his books have been adapted for theatrical productions and feature films.

Ondtaaje received the Booker Prize in 1992 and The Golden Man Booker Prize in 2018 for The English Patient.

He was also honored with the Sri Lanka Ratna in 2005 by the then Sri Lankan Government. Ondaatje was also made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2016.


The plot of The English Patient is set in the backdrop of the World War II. It is a story about four main characters, who, due to different circumstances, end up in a Villa in Italy.

When the War forces the Villa to be converted into a hospital, all the nurses and patients move to safer locations. Hana, a Canadian nurse, decides to stay behind with a badly burned patient.

In fact, the patient is burned beyond recognition and cannot recall his name. He is referred to as the English patient due to his accent. Soon after, Kirpal Singh, an Indian Sikh enlisted into the British military, and David Carvaggio join them. Both Kip and David had their own demons to contend with.

As the story progresses, the past of each of the characters is slowly revealed, including that of the unknown patient. There is also an improvement in the relationship between the different characters.

A sort of love triangle develops between Hana, Kip, and Caravaggio. The readers also eventually get to the point where the identity of the English patient is revealed along with his war-time adventures and how he came to be the burned, unknown patient.


The English Patient is a wonderful blend of a great story with phenomenal writing. One can easily fall in love with the characters, especially the mysterious patient. The flow of the story is such that the readers will be unable to resist the temptation of knowing every character intimately.

Book review of The English Patient

The book is actually a celebration of love in all its facets. Ondaatje has beautifully explored the dilemma of a person who knows that something is forbidden and yet they cannot live without it.

The English Patient, however, is much more than just a love story. The author has successfully created multiple subplots involving the four main characters. These include adventures in the Sahara Desert, espionage in World War II, and the mystery of the charred patient. It explores how relationship dynamics are influenced in wartime.

The narration is non-linear and it is possible for the readers to take a while to get the hang of it. It is only after a few pages into the book that the story begins to make sense. However, this is what adds character and substance to it.


There are hardly any points based on which the book can be criticized.


Half my days, I cannot bear not to touch you.

The rest of the time I feel it doesn’t matter if I ever see you again. It isn’t the mortality, it is how much you can bear.


Ameya Score:

The English Patient is one of those all-time must-reads that every bookshelf needs and deserves to have. It is a notorious tear-jerker, but one that brings the kind of warmth to the heart that few other books can.

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