The English Patient

The English Patient
As homework for our Novel Course, Rebecca set us the task of watching The English Patient as an example of good story telling. Our tutor wanted us to view the movie as an illustration of telling a story in non-chronological order. She demonstrated how the film gradually reveals key plot points, paced throughout the feature.

I dutifully watched the film, but I must confess I found The English Patient somewhat slow paced. I could, however, appreciate the craft of the story-telling. The film reveals de Almasy's past through flashbacks while he lies in his sickbed, running two parallel stories, past and present. Meanwhile, the film weaves in a number of subplots.

I am happy to find I recognise this strategy in my current novel, Travel Journals of a Football Widow; I run two intertwining stories. The present story tells of Erin’s summer holidays. By night, Erin reads Jennie’s diary and her past is revealed. However, some pages have been ripped from the journal so there are gaps in the story. Towards the end, the the missing sheets are revealed to complete the mystery. The consequences of this have a dramatic impact on the climax of the story. I have, however, learned from this exercise I could develop my subplots further.


Have you read any books that reveal plot in non-chronological order? Do you have an opinion on The English Patient?

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