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.


Love in the time of cholera-Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

I have mixed feelings about this love story. I appreciate that it is exquisitely written with fine details so that you feel as if you are standing in a Caribbean thunderstorm with the characters. The magic realism that Marquez so skillfully weaves through his narrative is wonderful, and I’ll be the first to admit that I love a bit of magical realism.

It tells the tragic story of Florentino Ariza, who spends his whole life waiting for the chance to love once again the woman who scorned him in his youth, Fermina Daza. The story opens on the day of Fermina’s distinguished husband’s death, and as is the case with many of Marquez’ books, it is set in a fictional country based on his homeland of Columbia at the turn of the century.

The book is beautifully written, but the thinly-veiled references to rape and pedophilia really just ruined it for me. I couldn’t really enjoy the character of Florentino Ariza after those parts of the story.

I paired this book with an excellent Italian wine, the Terra del Capo Sangiovese, perfect for those humid Caribbean nights that the book conjures in your mind.