In the Villa San Girolamo, Hana, Kirpal Singh, David Caravaggio, and Count Ladislaus de Almásy, the “English patient” of the novel’s title, come together at the end of World War II. Each is haunted by ghosts of the dead, and each tells stories of how he or she came to be injured physically or emotionally. In the villa, these individuals unite as a multicultural society, in retreat from battle, their community ironically shattered at the war’s end.
The Canadian Hana is exhausted from nursing the wounded and the dying, her lover has died in the war, and she has aborted their child. Haunted by the ghosts of lover and child, she discovers that her father has died of burns in France, another casualty of battle. Hana asks to remain in the villa after the other hospital personnel and patients have left for safety in Pisa, caring for the burned and dying English patient, a surrogate for her dead father.
The English patient, the Hungarian Count de Almásy, listens to Hana read to him and talks to Kirpal Singh and David Caravaggio, flickering in and out of his morphine-induced dreams of prewar desert explorations and an affair with Katharine Clifton. He remembers when Katharine’s husband Geoffrey learned of their affair and attempted to kill all of them in 1939, crashing his plane in the Libyan desert when he and Katharine came to pick up Almásy. However, Geoffrey succeeded only in killing himself and injuring Katharine. Almásy had buried Geoffrey and carried Katharine into the Cave of Swimmers, promising to return as soon as he could get help. However, the British soldiers he found refused to listen to him, believing him a German spy. They imprisoned him so that he could not get back...
(The entire section is 700 words.)