Gave in and Googled The English Patient, which saves me having to read it. Evidently the book is different from the film, but still is all about People Being Stupid because of their great passions. That's a pet hate of mine onaccounta not believing in great passions in the first place. It's like saying that you had to do something because you were stoned out of your gourd. That's not a reason, let alone an excuse, let alone an admirable excuse, for destructive behaviour.
And my suspicions of Ondaatje's women seem to have been justified. From a Goodreads review:
I’m going to venture out of my normal review style here, and instead do a Q & A with Hana (the, erm... MC, maybe?!)
Me: *puzzled stare* Moving on: Why do you seem to have a pseudo-sexual relationship with all the men in this book, despite the fact that one is purporting to be "like an Uncle" and another is entirely bedridden??
Hana: Well, I am a woman surrounded by men, need I say more?? *shoulder shrug*
Say no more.