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Gives you a good feel for living in a time of war where things are not real cut and dried. Some beautiful imagery. I like Ondaatje.
This might be the only book I've ever given 2 stars to. It was excruciatingly SLOW! Not a spoiler but only the ending was interesting to me...and, not that much.
I have always loved Michael Ondaatje's beautiful style and the rolling rhythm of his poetry and prose. This book certainly did not fall short of the mastery I expect from him. The story is intriguing and heartbreaking in turns and it reveals itself like eating an artichoke; layer after layer of toughness and tenderness. The titular theme of warlight is pervasive throughout the book and the imagery of misty, foggy London in the blackout of the war is such a great mirror for the underbelly worlds of crime and espionage.
In Warlight, a man recalls how when he was a teenager, after WWII was over, his parents left him and his sister ostensibly for a year. His father's job was taking him to Singapore, and the kids were to remain in London in boarding school. Their third floor lodger, who Nathaniel and Rachel call "The Moth", is to be their holiday caregiver and point person in London. The parents depart. Nathaniel and his sister hate boarding at school and decide to live with the lodger. Nathaniel finds evidence that maybe their mother didn't go with their father to Singapore. It is very mysterious, and the lodger is somewhat mysterious and his friends are interesting. Slowly it becomes clear that their mother is involved in something or was involved in something during the war. Things come to a head. In the second half of the novel, Nathaniel is an adult trying to find out more about his mother's wartime activities.
Warlight refers to the dim light used to guide traffic in times of war, and is a perfect title for this moodily lit novel. When I first finished this, I was just relieved to be done. It was beautifully written, but left me cold. Over the last couple days though it has grown on me. The prose does seem pretentious at times, but it is wonderfully atmospheric. Its reflections on the nature of memory reminded me of Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending. The WWII spy angle reminded me of Transcription by Kate Atkinson.
Very well written literary book -- the author Ondaatje has deeply gone into the minds of the characters and extreacted their thoughts.
This book can be of use for both "Nasrullah Visiting Queen Victoria" and "Milk for Two"
The writing in both books must extract the realistic thoughts of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan and other characters as how they lived and thought during their day to day lives.
Keep this in shelf for further checkouts.
I was fascinated by the role of the British Secret Service during and after WWII and by the strong, eccentric characters.
Brilliant story. Begins with a childhood mystery which resolves in a very satisfactory way. Superb writing. Captures post war UK, where I spent my childhood, very well. Recommended.
Ondaatje’s opening sentence is one of the outstanding first words of a novel. Being left in the care of strangers after World War II in London, a brother and a sister, lead any unusual life, and it isn’t until their teen and adult lives are the puzzle pieces put together.
Have you ever tried to clearly remember your childhood friends and the distinct individuals you saw day-to-day? People who would come and go for reasons that were beyond your understanding? In childhood, the people surrounding us are often painted as caricatures in our mind and it is only later in life that we start to think of them as real people and not puppet moving on a stage around us. Then, we often just remember fleeting stories and moments that stand the test of time and affect us deep into adulthood.
The fog of war drifts in and out during “Warlight”, a masterful piece of almost historical fiction. Lose yourself in dreamy landscapes, darkness, smuggling, mystery and danger that always follows but rarely reveals itself in post-WWII London.
Nathaniel and his sister Rachel find themselves parentless and lost to the traditional world. Their mother packs a trunk to leave for some unknown destination. Mother seems to be there and yet gone, somewhere, with fleeting moving and returning but always at the peripheral. Nathaniel's world is filled with nicknames, "The Moth" and "The Darter." He moves over strange roads and waterways, surrounded by darkness and greyhounds and wondering about his mother's whereabouts. He is guided by criminally interesting individuals instead of parents as he grows.
Everything is cast in dream-like "Warlight" that illuminates sharply but leaves long sections of shadow for every article that has light cast upon it. The beautiful prose and compelling vignettes make Nathaniel’s life as a child, and then as a young man, discovering the truth of his past hard to put down and difficult to stop pondering. Michael Ondaatje shows why he is a master of the literary fiction craft in this beautiful novel.
I found the novel frustrating to read in that he goes back and forth in time far too often. I know that this format is very trendy now it gets on my nerves! Perhaps it would be easier to understand if he put dates (years) on his chapter titles! I enjoyed the first part of the novel much more than the latter parts (it needs editing).
Poetic writing, story goes back in forth in time so you have to read closely.
superb book. But don't ask me why. It just is. It is the writing above all. It is also distressing dealing with the after effects of war, the nether world of spies, the effect on families.
See Linda Marion's comment below. My feelings exactly..."Round and round it goes....where's the plot nobody knows!" To para-phrase.
I agree that the prose is beautifully written, but the story overall was not satisfying for me. It did seem to just circle around and never come to any real conclusion. Maybe that was the point since the son certainly went around in circles with his mother and was never able to resolve his questions about her life and his father.
An intriguing read which, at times, was a page-turning pseudo spy-thriller but, in typical Ondaatje style, raised far more complex issues of family constellations, the effects of war, and the stories we tell that become our memories. The young protagonist is driven to fill in the gaps left when his mother disappeared and his work becomes solving that puzzle. "We order our lives with barely held stories. As if we have been lost in a confusing landscape …sewing it all together in order to survive, incomplete" (p.284).
The story bubbles with curiously peculiar characters who create an impact on the protagonist, many of whom will come full circle.
A great London war-time book with the most colorful characters who played an essential part in espionage against the Germans. Ondaatje's characters engage you and his last chapter will blew you away as each character's part is revealed in war-time London. You won't want this book to end! And, you will learn many facts on how the English used underground London to fight the German invasion and war.
Becker (8/15/2018) has written a review better than I could. A beautiful and sad novel.
There is no doubt this man can write. I thought the prose was clean and elegant. And thankfully my appreciation for the writing carried me through the first half of the book because I was completely unsure of how I felt about the story. At that point it was largely a boy's reminiscent about his childhood. It was vague and fairly uneventful. Somewhere around the middle the story took a turn and I was slowly and a bit reluctantly pulled in. I don't really know if this is a love story or a war story or perhaps even a bit of a mystery but it had a spellbinding effect on me. I couldn't pull away from it toward the end. It is very quietly told through the haze of memory. At the end I felt as though I had just witnessed someone else's dream. I appreciate any book that can give me an experience and for better or worse, this book definitely did.
Part 2, « Inheritance » , opens with my new favorite matter of fact description of place. Nathaniel has been rescued by his mother’s wartime colleague to her childhood home and it’s 1959. Otherwise, the boy is re-writing Dickens. On each side of 1945. The boy came of age with thieves, and the mother’s war story can’t exactly be told because it might be too true. Artful play with time, except too many cuts at the end feel they ordered a movie.
The "Cat's Table"on land. Children without adult supervision encountering a diverse and suspect group of adults. I hope Michael Ondaatje is not going to make a habit of this same story over and over. Nevertheless, well written as are all his books.