He lies flat on his back, no pillow, looking up at the foliage painted on to the ceiling, its canopy of branches, and above that, blue sky.

The final curtain is closing on the Second World War, and Hana, a nurse, stays behind in an abandoned Italian villa to tend to her only remaining patient. There they are joined by a mysterious thief named Caravaggio and an Indian sapper, nicknamed 'Kip'. Each is wounded, lost, shattered.

Rescued by Bedouins from a burning plane, he is English, anonymous, damaged beyond recognition and haunted by his memories of passion and betrayal. The only clue Hana has to his past is the one thing he clung on to through the fire - a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, covered with hand-written notes describing a painful and ultimately tragic love affair. As Hanna begins to form a passionate connection to Kip, her patient begins to weave his own stories from his fractured memories. Stories of his illicit, tempestuous affair with Katherine Clifton in a time before the war.

More than two decades after its release, The English Patient has become a classic of twentieth century literature; a poetic, lyrical examination of love’s many possibilities, from the first whispers of desire to the lasting consequences of betrayal. An instant favourite with readers and critics alike – the Independent’s reviewer called it ‘the best piece of fiction in English I've read in several years… throbbing with emotion and humanity’ – it went on to inspire an Oscar-winning film, directed by Anthony Minghella.