(Review) Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

 

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Publisher and Publication Date: Alfred A. Knopf. May 8, 2018.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 304.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

A bio of Michael Ondaatje from Goodreads

An excellent review from Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News.

Summary:
Nathaniel, age 14, and his sister, Rachel, age 16, are left in the guardianship of a man known as The Moth. Their parents are going overseas. They will be gone for at least a year. The two young people will continue living in their home, but will have a new type of family. They live in London, England. Their parents both worked during the war doing something for the government. The time period of the story is 1945 through the late 1950s. The Moth has other people visit the home, they are known to him, but a mystery to Nathaniel and Rachel. Nathaniel and Rachel believe these people are possibly criminals.

My First Impressions:

1.The opening line was a clincher for me.

In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. Page 5.

2. The first part of the story moves along at a slow thoughtful pace.
3. The narrator, Nathaniel, is telling the story of his life when he was a young adult. He blends both his thoughts then, and a bit of his current mature thinking. Not enough to reveal anything, at least not in part one.
4. The story has a sad cloud hovering over it, and the cloud doesn’t leave.
5. Warlight is a thinking book. It is a particular type of story where the reader must understand this is not going to be a cheerful book. And, the author is trying to tell us something important. The characters have too much to hide about their lives. And many of those hidden things will never be revealed, no matter how many rocks are explored and turned over.
6. Warlight shows things are not always what they seem in regards to people. People we think are scary are in fact not. And people who are supposed to love and care for us are incapable of doing so. Nevertheless, what people do with what has happened to them is the bigger story.

Final Thoughts:

1. I read Warlight in two days! The first part moved at such a slow pace, and at times I wondered when is “it” going to pick up and show me something? I hung on, and I am so glad I did. The second half of the book is a treasure.
2. Several lines in the story are beautiful, meaningful, and memorable. For example:

The lost sequence in a life, they say, is the thing we always search out. Page 129.

If you grow up with uncertainty you deal with people only on a daily basis, to be even safer on a hourly basis. You do not concern yourself with what you must or should remember about them. You are on your own. So it took me a long time to rely on the past, and reconstruct how to interpret it. Page 169.

We never know more than the surface of any relationship after a certain stage, just as those layers of chalk, built from the efforts of infinitesimal creatures, work in almost limitless time. Page 256.

If a wound is great you cannot turn it into something that is spoken, it can barely be written. Page 275. This is my favorite line in the book!

We order our lives with barely held stories. Page 284.

I read The English Patient a few years ago. Warlight reminds me a little of The English Patient in that both books are showing people and life are not what they seem to be. There are hidden things people keep locked in their hearts. But, this does not mean they don’t love. Both books are tragic in a way. However, life is tragic, it has happy moments, but many sad moments. Nevertheless, it is all in how we react to those tragic places.

Warlight is a memorable book for me. I will not forget this story. I believe Michael Ondaatje has written a masterpiece. Thank you!

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