Warlight: A novel
by Michael Ondaatje
Paperback- $10.25

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize
 
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Notable Book
 
An NPR Best Book of the Year
 
It ...

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  "The story is slowly illuminated." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 05/31/18

Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, author, Steve West, narrator
It is 1945, and the war in Europe has only recently ended. Two young British teens have been told that they are going to be cared for by a guardian since their father, emotionally damaged by the war, has gotten a better job and will be moving to, and working in, Singapore. Their mother Ruth Williams tells them that she will join him there. It will be for a year. She packs meticulously.
The teenaged children, one 14 and one almost 16, Nathaniel and Rachel, have misgivings about their new caretaker, a large man whom they nickname the Moth. His friends and lifestyle make them think that he is not what he pretends to be, and is perhaps, instead, mixed up in something nefarious. As all sorts of people begin arriving at their home, they are drawn into a world of illicit activity. Why they wonder, would their parents choose such a guardian for them? Still, as time passes, they begin to warm to the Moth and another man they call the Darter.
When they discover that their mother’s trunk is in the basement and realize it had never been shipped to Asia, they have many unanswered questions. The teens do not understand why their mother and father would choose to leave them behind and not remain in touch with them. Where was their mother if her trunk was in the basement? They wonder if either of their parents was still alive.
As the story moves very deliberatively and subtly toward the discovery of the reasons behind their abandonment, it is Nathaniel who is the more interested sibling. He wants to know more about his mother’s wartime past. As he grows more inquisitive, his sister grows angrier and more estranged from their mother. Events have occurred which have scarred her emotionally, even as they piqued her brother’s interest. As they were forced to both grow up under these odd circumstances, they witnessed things that they did not understand.
As the novel progresses, and their mother returns, hints and tidbits are repetitively revealed throughout the narrative. As more than a decade passes, very slowly and methodically, certain ideas recur in the story, they connect with each other to explain Ruth Williams past and her involvement in the British intelligence service. Now an adult, Nathaniel realizes, a bit late, that his mother’s life was, and still, may be in danger. His sister Rachel does not care or want to know anything further about her.
There are many interesting characters in the book, but they and the timeline are sometimes difficult to keep track of, which indicates to me that a print book would be far better than an audio, although in this case, the narrator did a perfectly stellar job reading it, without getting in the way of the story. Although, in the end, all of the characters are in some way connected, it seems almost unintentionally, as their connection is revealed through a series of memories and coincidences which occur as the years pass, the reader discovers that all of the characters were not exactly what they appeared to be, at first. They all seemed to have double identities, double lives. The discovery of their backgrounds and purposes in the novel, made it that much more interesting. For myself, I wondered, what exactly did the author have in mind as the purpose for the book.
1-Would I have been happier if it had been more clear cut in its presentation or was the indirectness of the narrative what actually made it so interesting?
2-Was the book’s purpose to show the futility of war and the unending hate and desire for revenge that continues even after?
3-Was it an effort to show that ordinary people could be heroes or villains, depending on whose eyes perceived them or what they themselves chose to be?
4-Was it to show how certain events influenced the lives of each of the characters and framed their futures?
I must admit, I was not very sure, about the answers to any of my questions, but I did enjoy the story for the sake of the story itself and the fact that it left me thinking was a testament to it, as well.
In my opinion, this book will make a very interesting movie.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/31/19

 
  "war light" by Carolynr (see profile) 07/07/19

wow. seems you either loved this book or hated it. Since I fall into the latter, it was very interesting to read the reviews from those who loved it. While i respect their opinions, it didn't change mine. Pointless story, boring,, not even sure what it was about. Not a good one for me. sorry.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/31/19

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/01/19

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/18/19

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/24/19

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