The English Patient-Michael Ondaatje


I’d heard of The English Patient often, it’s a cult-classic among my parents generation. But it took me a shameful number of years to connect it with one of my favorite authors-and one of the living greats as far as I’m concerned. I first met Michael Ondaatje in Anil’s Ghost, after which I ferreted out his latest work, The Cat’s Table, so it was inevitable that I would eventually get around to The English Patient.

At first I was a bit disappointed, and I’d forgotten his unique poetry-like way of writing, and it took me a while to figure out what was happening, but once I did, I was enraptured.

This story unravels from Italy, to Canada, to Egypt in a conflagration of loves and lives experiencing the Second World War. The tale of unrequited love, of loss, of architecture, of education, is cleverly crafted, and by the time I had finished it, Ondaatje’s skill as a writer was indisputable and it’s no surprise that he won the Booker Prize for this story in 1991.

If you love prose poetry and history, this is one to add to your “must read” list. I paired this with a delicious Sangiovese, a fruity and delightfully palatable wine from Italy, pairing perfectly with this book which is set in the hills of Tuscany.

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Notes on a small island – Bill Bryson

After reading some heavy literature, I found myself in one of those rare literary droughts, picking up books, setting them back down again, reading a few pages then feeling unsatisfied. So when I went on holiday, I left with three different books in my bag, hoping to find one that would fit my mood.

Fortunately for me, after landing and before hitting the long road to my holiday destination, I stopped off at my gran’s house for lunch. Now my gran and I do not have the same taste in books, she subsists solely on a diet of murder mysteries (Patricia Cornwall and the like) intermingled with a dash of Danielle Steele for variety. So imagine my delight when I found this literary treasure upon her shelf! (I also picked up a Toni Morrison).

After having recently read A Walk in the Woods, and just heading on an adventure myself, this book was the perfect fit. It wasn’t the same as A Walk in the Woods, and definitely took me longer to read, but it was packed with all of Bryson’s wit, skepticism and charm.

In the book Bryson attempts to traverse all of the U.K using only public transport, as a kind of farewell to the place he met his wife, and the place he called home for fifteen years. In true Bryson style, it is filled with insight about England, with all its quirks. He really captures British culture succinctly, and although the book seems to fall into a monotony at times, and is somewhat dated in terms of cultural references, it’s still a lighthearted and entertaining read.

Keeping with the tone of this travelogue I didn’t pair it with wine. I did however pair it with some great gin and tonics, particularly Gillespie’s or Cruxland truffle-infused gin. Add a dash of bitters for a rounder flavor.