When I was a teenager, I wasn't allowed to go see rated R films. I wasn't always obedient, though, so when some friends invited me to go see The English Patient, I was so there. And wow...did I love it. In fact, I have only seen this film once, but it's a powerful example of the way a film or story can sear itself onto your brain, into your life. I have very vivid memories of it, of the way it captivated me emotionally. I wept through the conclusion of it, my friend told me I sank down into my seat to hide my tears. (By the way, it's true...be sure your sins will find you out. My parents did and I was grounded.)
To this day, when asked, I usually list it as a favorite movie. I had often pondered reading the book but feared I wouldn't find the book nearly as interesting as the movie. Now, I am grateful for the way the film is so firmly embedded into my mind because I'm fairly certain I would have given up on the book if I hadn't had the story structure and visuals of the film to rely upon.
The English Patient is not the kind of book you pick up and think you will read through easily. At first I wasn't too worried, it wasn't that long and I figured I would read it quickly enough. I was very wrong. It took me quite awhile to read this book as I often had no idea what I was reading. I had to go back and reread sections and I was still confused. I had a hard time latching onto any timeline or cohesive plot. If I didn't have the images of the film in my mind, or if this wasn't a book club pick, I would never have been able to complete it.
The English Patient takes place mostly at an abandoned convent in Italy where a man who has been severely burned is cared for by a nurse who is suffering from severe fatigue of caring for the dying. A few other characters come into their lives..Carvaggio who was a thief that was caught in the act and tortured, and Kip, who dismantles bombs. Their stories are all told in bits and pieces throughout the book.
The writing is at times beautiful, there is no doubt about that. The themes of the book can be picked out, and there were a few times where I did want to keep turning the pages! But overall, while I'm glad to now say that I've read the book, I'm unlikely to pick up more books from this author. It was too much work with not enough pay-off for me. I do want to rewatch the movie though and I'll let you know if I still love it.
Rating: 4/5 (I can recognize the quality of the writing)
Things You Might Want to Know: There are some sexual references and a bit of language.
Unlike with 13 Reasons Why, we actually found little to discuss about the story itself in book club! We spent a fair bit of time talking about how much better the movie was (okay that was only me), how difficult the writing was, etc. We did manage to touch on some themes from the book and discuss the overall character development. Most book club members seemed particularly sympathetic to Kip and Hana, while I really didn't care deeply about anyone. Honestly, I loved the movie for the tragic love story (love those!) and it wasn't quite as powerful in the book. I think we are all glad to have read the book, but we probably won't be rereading it!
Have you read The English Patient? Did we totally miss the importance of this book? Do share your thoughts!