Warlight by Michael Ondaatje


Michael Ondaatje

A mesmerizing new novel set in the decade after World War II that recounts the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers.

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From the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of The English Patient: a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement.

In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself--shadowed and luminous at once--we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings' mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn't know and understand in that time, and it is this journey--through facts, recollection, and imagination--that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.

Advance Galley Reviews

Because of the author’s prior impressive work, I gave this book more time than it deserved. But it never lived up to my expectation, and halfway through I started skimming the chapters just to see what happened. Perhaps if the mother's character had been primary, the plotting would have jelled into a satisfying tale. As it was, the narrator was not particularly appealing, interesting, or insightful, and the story just plodded along.

I couldn't get past the first 50 pages. I began skimming through very long paragraphs of boring first-person POV about page 30. The story started well with a family mystery and a mysterious man nicknamed "The Moth". But the back-story recollections of the son kept dragging on and the narrative with very little dialogue no longer held my interest. I don't have the patience to go on any further with this book. I'm ready for my next read. This one no longer interests me. Very disappointed.

Warlight is the dimmed atmosphere than London assumed in order to not aid German bombers in finding their targets. Now the war is over, but the dimness remains -- Nathaniel is given (or retains) scant details about why his parents are leaving him and his sister in the care of a man they barely know and going overseas. For him it is quite an adventure, getting mixed up in some mischief like greyhound smuggling and possibly some art heists; then later enjoying a sexual awakening in "borrowed" houses. For his older sister, though, things are much more serious, as she learns that she has and has to manage epilepsy. That and some other issues make her very resentful when her mother finally returns. Nathaniel, however, makes it his life's work to piece together what was really going on for both him and his mother at that time, following her into intelligence and combing through files searching for any trace of her. The atmosphere and characters of this novel are very vivid and the intentional shadows and unknowns reinforce and frustrate the read.

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje was a very good read for me. The prose was excellent and the story hung together well, with an appropriate amount of mystery and reveal. There are a lot of times in this book where a part of the story is told and key details and connections are left out, only to be revealed by later events or later backstory. I always enjoy books that can do this well, that can leave me interested without being too confused, and them deliver the missing pieces seamlessly while maintaining the intrigue. This can be hard to do and can make things a confusing muddle when not done well. I think Warlight does this marvelously, making it on the whole an excellent read. With the added bonus of a look at an interesting historical time, in London post World War II with flashbacks to spycraft during the war. I would recommend this to literary fiction and historical fiction fans.

I am a huge fan of Ondaatje's The English Patient and Anil's Ghost, so I jumped at the chance to receive an ARC of his newest book. Warlight starts out with Ondaatje's beautiful prose and it pulled me in...however, it then lost me...then pulled me in again...and then lost me again. I really wanted to like this book and, I did in some parts, but the story just didn't quite gel together for me.

A new Michael Ondaatje novel is always a treat, and in Warlight, he does not disappoint. The story opens as we meet Nathaniel and his sister Rachel, who live in post-war London. Their parents are moving to Singapore, but the teenagers are to be left at home to finish their schooling. They are left in the care of a man called Moth, who may or may not be a criminal, and through him they meet other characters who seem to be of dubious character. The novel then follows Nathaniel as he gets older, and begins to piece together the true story of his mother, who played a vital war role. Ondaatje's writing is lyrical, as ever, and this novel will appeal to his many fans. I particularly enjoyed this book as it was set a few miles from where I grew up; it was interesting to see places I knew well described during their post-war years.

I have to be honest: I am not sure I would have finished this book had it not been an ARC copy that warranted a review (I skimmed the last fifty pages). I struggled to get through the book and almost stopped reading just over halfway through. I tried to give the book some leeway, but about a third of the way through the story was going nowhere, and it seemed to not have a plot. I was hopeful it was just a slow start, but unfortunately the story never really went anywhere. The characters were interesting and if they appeared in a book with a plot, I think said book would have been enjoyable. The book is narrated by the main character, Nathaniel. The story starts off with Nathaniel as a teenager, with him and his sister Rachel left by their parents in the care of The Moth & The Darter (as Nathaniel refers to them). The relationship between these men and Nathaniel's parents is unclear and there is no explanation until much later in the book. There is lots of alluding to the future, written from the past, but it's not consistent. I found it confusing. It seems to skip time periods very quickly and drop important information and then not really explain it. The book is all over the place - almost not having the various parts of the book connect. The book takes place after World War II and I expected more historical information, but there really was not much. I was very disappointed in this book and would not recommend it.

Warlight was the faint illumination that guided people during the blackouts. In this book it's a guide through a personal history. Nathaniel was 14 and his sister Rachel almost 16 in 1945 when their parents left for a year's stay in Singapore, leaving the children in the care of their lodger who they called The Moth. The Moth filled their home with dubious, possibly criminal, characters including a greyhound smuggler called The Darter. What seemed like it was going to be a coming of age tale turned into Nathaniel's attempt to reconstruct the story of his mother Rose's life. The father (whose past may have been even more mysterious than Rose's) and Rachel basically disappear from the book after Part One. As an adult, Nathaniel was recruited by the Intelligence Service and used his job to try to trace Rose's movements during and after World War II. All sensitive documents were destroyed after the war and even in the 1950s most people who had provided vital services during the war still refused to talk about it. Accordingly, Nathaniel's search was a combination of research, guesswork, memory and imagination as he found the links between Roses's past and his present. "And by the time a war grew again in Europe, he had become a 'Gatherer' and 'Sender Out' of young men and women, luring them into silent political service—because of what? perhaps some small anarchy he glimpsed in them, an independence they needed to fulfill—and releasing them into the underworld of the new war. A group that eventually included (unknown to her parents) Rose Williams..." Rose was a fascinating and enigmatic character whose life of bravery, danger and love was slowly revealed in flashes. The book shifts back and forth in time and there are no tidy conclusions. None of that bothered me. It's a little slow moving at times but I was never bored. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Thanks to First to Read for ARC of Michael Ondaatje’s “Warlight”. There are many beautiful.passages in this novel. A description of post World War II city: It was a time of war ghosts and grey unlit buildings, even at night...The city stiill felt wounded, uncertain of itself. It allowed one to be rule-less. Everything had already happened. Hadn’t it? The narrator describes the sneezes of one of his “caretakers”: Burst of air were expelled not just from his face but seem to originate from the depth of his large and friendly stomach...Late at night they could be fully articulated traveling from his attic room as if he were some trained actor whose stage whispers could reach the furthest row. There are so many artful and nuanced pieces and for that reason alone it is worth a read. There are almost too many interesting characters and not enough spent on the most interesting. It just never comes together as the book is formatted .Love the author but not this book.

Im not sure how to describe the book. It is a coming of age story and a adult child’s discovery of the past that he was unaware of at the time. The story hits the most exciting point in the middle. It a slow work up and then a slow match back down. It is beautifully written but it just wasn’t for me.

If you like the kind of books that are pretentious, boring, and altogether a waste of words, then Warlight might just be the novel for you! Warlight is certainly not a captivating novel. Historical fiction is a genre that gives opportunities for stories that warrant an audience to be told. This novel however, is only random recollections of arbitrary events in the narrator, Nathaniel's life. I would not describe it as coming of age either, since a large portion of the narrative is pondering what Nathaniel's Mother's story has been. Most of this book seems rather unnecessary which begs the question, is this story worth being told?

A great read and brilliant novel. From the first sentence, this will keep in interested. It is full of heart-rending insights. it is a story of secrets and loss. As Kirkus reviews says "A lyrical mystery . . . Ondaatje’s shrewd character study plays out in a smart, sophisticated drama, one worth the long wait for fans of wartime intrigue." I could not put this book down and highly recommend it. —

This book didn't grab me.

Gorgeously written and highly cinematic, just like flickers of light bring filmic shadows to life on the screen, in this enigmatic yet nostalgic WWII novel, Michael Ondaatje does the same on the page. And while it has a tendency to wander (particularly past its halfway point), throughout the dazzling Warlight, Ondaatje deftly brings his shadowy characters to life in passages so beautiful, they seem meant to be read aloud - shared with the loved ones you have huddled around you by your reading light.

In 1945 Nathaniel and his sister Rachel were left in the care of a boarder who they called Moth when their parents departed for Singapore for their father’s job. It wasn’t until some time later that they found their mother’s carefully packed trunk in the attic. This became only one of the mysteries of their childhood that would haunt them. Warlight is told from Nathaniel’s perspective. It is a coming of age story that is filled with an unusual assortment of characters that come into and suddenly leave his life. While Moth knew their mother, he rarely talks about her other than to confirm that she had a role during the war that took her to the rooftops of London. Working a summer job at a restaurant, he meets Agnes, who introduces him to love in a series of empty homes that her real-estate brother has provided keys for. Darter also plays a major part in his life as he helps him with deliveries by truck and on the rivers and canals of England that at first has him questioning the legality and later just enjoying the adventure. Each person leaves their mark, helping him to become the man that he grows to be. Through it all, however, is the question of his mother’s disappearance. It is a mystery that he later solves when he is hired by the intelligence service to review documents from the war years and later actions to determine what is to be destroyed. Michael Ondaatje has written a beautiful story. Not everyone is what they seem and it is not until the final pages that Nathaniel ties all of the ends together. This is a book that has made my list of favorites and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

I loved, loved this book although at times I felt like I’d run a marathon while reading it. It left me breathless. Set in the years after World War II, the first part of the book introduces us to Nathaniel and his sister who are abruptly abandoned by their parents and left in the care of a puzzling caretaker and his curious friends. This is Nathaniel’s story to tell. With the help of his caretakers friends, he lives a wild, unconventional life, especially for a 14 year old boy all the while full of questions as to who they are and how they connect with his parents. The second part of the book introduces us to his mother and her place in the war and after, while Nathanial tries to make sense of it all. The book is beautiful in its language, rich in its characters and most certainly kept me interested

Nathaniel and his sister Rachel are left in the care of a mysterious man they nickname The Moth when their father receives a job promotion requiring a year abroad. Their mother will go with him and they will stay behind in London to attend boarding school. It is soon revealed that the family has many secrets that 15 year old Nathaniel tries to understand with limited experience while surrounded by people he believes are supposed to keep him and his sister safe yet seem vaguely dangerous. I failed to really understand this book. I can't explain any solid plot to you and the story Nathaniel tells us is meandering with a lot of pointless information. He is detached from the story itself, blaming youth most of the time, and we never get to know any of the characters. I didn't connect with any of the characters or the writing itself. The most interesting part of the story was the focus on his mother. I would be curious to read her full story from her perspective but this novel is flat, listless, and without any resolution or ending since all information given to the reader is so vague. Thanks to Penguin Random House for providing a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

"In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals." Warlight From the opening line, I fell into under the spell of Nathaniel's story about how he and his sister Rahel were abandoned at ages fourteen and sixteen to the care of relative strangers, their third-floor lodger, whom they called The Month, and the Pimlico Dancer. After their father departed, going to Asia for his work, never to be seen again, their mother stayed with them for two more weeks, sharing bits of her history, enough to lure them into understanding there was much more to her than they knew. Then suddenly she left them, too. The Moth welcomes shady company into their home. The Darter brings a string of women, none of whom last long. The teens are left alone, sometimes for days. Nathaniel discovers their mother's trunk is in the house. She had not left to join her husband. And The Moth wasn't talking. "He was brilliant," The Moth says of their father, "but he was not stable." Both parents are strangers to the teens. Over the next years, Nathaniel lives in a complicated and uncertain world, accompanying The Darter on nighttime trips that are perhaps criminal activities, and working odd jobs during the day. He has a secret liaison with a girl in empty houses. Years later, Nathaniel is approached to work in a government position that allows him access to files which he plumbs for information about his mother's war-related work. He visits people from his past. He pieces together who his mother truly was, the life she kept secret, the fear she lived with, and the lover who brought her into a world of danger. Warlight is a man's search for his mother, the story of the deeply etched marks left by a lost childhood, and an exploration of the stories we weave together just to survive. I received a free ebook from First to Read.

I had really looked forward to this book, because it was Michael Ondaatje! Unfortunately, this fell flat for me. I wasn't drawn to any aspect of this, and felt the plot and characters were not able to hold my interest. It didn't pull me in like I had hoped.

Too slow a read. I didn't enjoy it much as it tends to give too much of information about the character and as far as the plot is concerned it just tends to drag page after page. I couldn't connect to the story line.

A twisted tale of many shadowy characters. This was a great read.

I didn't love this book - I had a hard time connecting with the characters and often felt that the plot was dragging on. I found myself rushing through chapters hoping that the plot would become clearer.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The beginning of the book was intriguing. A brother and sister left by their parents in the care of a stranger while they leave for Singapore. The cast of characters the come through their lives during this time are mysterious and leave their marks on the children. There is a time jump where much happens and little is explained. The son, now a man, is piecing together what his mother did. The father is pretty much just gone without explanation. We fill in the blanks as the son finds information and meets some of the people from his and his mothers past. At times this is a good read, but it is all over the map and loses focus as well as momentum.

This book has a dream-like quality. It felt like drifting through someone else's memories. It didn't even really feel like a story so much as a memory, a little faded, a little cloudy at times, some parts very sharp. A man recalls his past and the people who flowed in and out of his life in the post WWII era. I have never read this author before, I really enjoyed it.

I felt that this book was all over the place, with sections about Nathaniel's life seemingly coming out of nowhere when you expect it to continue on about a certain subject. I found the first half of the book about his growing up way less interesting than I did the second half that follows him later in life discovering secrets about his loved ones. The second half was a breeze for me because of this, which made me have a better impression of this book than I would have if it had continued in the way the first have did. In conclusion, this book has an interesting story about one man's life coming of age after the war, but it is way too all over the place to be a truly enjoyable book.

This book, although beautiful in its own way, put me to sleep on multiple occasions. It wanders, characters arrive and recede without adding much to the plot. In the end it is just very depressing and you wonder who to feel sorry for, Nathaniel or yourself for spending time reading this novel.

Warlight is an inconsistent novel by a remarkable writer. Nathaniel, the son of an undercover English intelligence spy during and after WWII, is left by his parents to the care of eccentric strangers. Focusing largely on his childhood, but also in part on his adult life as he strives to uncover and understand his mother’s role in the war, this novel describes places and characters in beautiful prose, but ultimately fails to find its true center of gravity. Every time the story begins to become clear—it’s a Bildungsroman, it’s a war story, it’s a love story—the plot (and sometimes even the point of view) takes a sharp turn and veers off a cliff, leaving the reader dazed in its wake. An enjoyable read, but ultimately disappointing—if only because I expected something more from Ondaatje.

I tried downloading my copy of Warlight and Adobe gives me an error" Error getting license License Server Communications Problem E_LIC_ALREADY_FUFILLED_BY_ANOTHER_USER I checked with Adobe help and they said the token on your end needs to be reset. Adobe thinks it has already fulfilled this request. I emailed about this last week and have not gotten a response. I will move on to the next book in the mean time.

This book was a surprise, at first impression, it seems slow and dragging on, but was redeemed as the tale was revealed. Two children are left in the care of iffy strangers when their parents leave on an extended trip abroad. The strange relationship between these caretakers and Nathaniel and his sister Rachel are chronicled. Nathaniel's point of view is prominent and the siblings align each with one of the two adults. Rachel is drawn to Walter and Nathaniel, The Darter. both characters seem to have suspicious criminal activities. There isn't any communication from their parents, especially painfully lacking from their mother. The discover their mother's packed trunk and Nathaniel's obsession to find the truth begins. The characters were a little flat, but the mystery was worth the read. Especially satisfying when the truth is revealed about the men who cared for them and their mother's resolve to keep them safe. Slow rhythm but worth the read.


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