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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Sail away…

cats table

Reading is often like climbing onto a ship and sailing softly away into another world, every time you open a book. Or at least that is true of The Cat’s Table. This charming story, by the author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatjie, tracks the on-board adventures of three mischievous bosom-buddy boys on board the Oronosay, sailing in 1954 from Colombo (Sri Lanka) to a new life in England.

It is written like a biography, and although the disclaimer at the back of the book insists that the characters of The Cats Table are fictional, I can’t help but suspect that Ondaatjie based the story on his own experience of immigrating in 1954.

I am deeply in love with and inspired by the way that Ondaatjie puts words together. I first fell in love with him as a wordsmith when I read Anils Ghost (about the Sri Lankan civil war) in 2009. Like well combined flavours, he just knows which words to put together to paint the perfect picture in the readers mind.

This book was an easy read. I paired it with the Swartland wine-of-origin Spice Route Savignon Blanc. It’s spicy aroma and strong flavour of green pepper are perfect for this moving and haunting story.