Sunday, 14 June 2009

Old friends: the joy of rediscovery

Re-reading a book that you have loved is a little like meeting up with an old friend you haven't seen for some time.

Over time, we all change, and the way we relate to other people and things changes to reflect this. It's the same with books. I've just finished rereading The English Patient, which I last read when I was in my mid-teens. I loved the novel and the film, although the film was quite different from the book, as is often the case. Minghella managed to capture the essence of the novel: the beauty of Ondaatje's writing was translated into stunning cinematography.

Reading The English Patient, what struck me was the craft that went into the writing of it. I found myself reading much more slowly than normal, savoring the words to the point where I would read passages aloud to listen to the rhythm of the words. It's exquisite.

The way Ondaatje weaves the four narratives together, slipping between the past and the present is impressive. I found myself having to read passages more than once to appreciate the the technique; I'd got too caught up in the story to notice how they'd been constructed. The prose is sparse but achingly beautiful in places. Not a single word is wasted.

I love The English Patient now more than I did when I first read it at 17 because appreciate the work that has gone into it. The precision of the sentences, the scenes, the character development and the research that went into writing a novel set at the end of the Second World War.

Welcome back, old friend.

No comments: