This is definitely not an easy read. It is slow, and methodical, much like each of the characters. Their stories are revealed through a series of flashbacks, as well as in their current situation. For me it revealed itself as a mystery, for in the end nothing was as it seemed in the beginning.
It is the story of four troubled people who all find themselves, through different circumstances, living together in a bombed out Italian villa at the end of WWII. They are all drawn in by the title character, a dying burn victim, who tells his story of being in the African dessert. Hana, the young nurse caring for him is grieving the death of her father. Caravaggio, an old family friend (who is also a spy/thief) comes to help care for her, but find himself drawn in by the English Patient as well. And Kip, the bomb defusing soldier dealing with English colonization and identity.
The stories are woven together like a tapestry. It is a love story, a war story, a story about culture and assimilation, a story about deception, a tragedy that somehow leaves you feeling maybe a little uplifted at the end. Although beautifully written, it can be difficult to read and even to understand or follow. I did not love this book, but I appreciate it for its lyrical poetic nature. It is therefore difficult to know what to say about it, or even how to summarize the story. Read this when you have time and quiet.