There can be no doubt that my reading of Michael Ondaatje’s marvellous “The English Patient” benefited from me having seen the film. It was as if the story he was sketching was being laid down on pre-tinted paper which made his images and backdrop all the more convincing.
It was reading “Warlight” that made me read “The English Patient” – and I’m glad I did. It is a wonderful book, masterfully crafted.
Inevitably I suppose you can’t but help hold it up to the film and compare (the downside of seeing the film first)… There is more of Kip in the book than I remember from the film – but understandable given Ondaatje’s nationality – and some liberties are taken with a few of the other scenes to make a better screen narrative. Especially the focus on Almásy and Katherine’s story – and then the ending. And I couldn’t get Willem Dafoe out of my head; the Caravaggio I concocted from the book would have been played by someone else entirely – though not sure who!
But this isn’t about the film. And if you haven’t seen it, it doesn’t matter – because the book is tremendous and that’s the most important thing!