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.

Start Reading….

Read Excerpt Now


Sign me up to receive news about Michael Ondaatje.

Place our blog button on your blog to let people know you are a member of this great program!


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

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is a story I had a lot of trouble following. I got lost and never really recovered. It covers many time periods and is an adult telling a story within a story. The philosophical premise of memory versus reality is intriguing. However, unfortunately, reading and trying to understanding an entire story based on it was too much of a challenge for me. Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2018/10/warlight.html Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

Warlight is the coming of age tale of Nathaniel and how he was marked during a time when his mother and father left him and his sister in the care of the Moth. Ondaatje is a beautiful writer, but the pacing is slow. For most of the book, the story doesn't seem to go anywhere. It's just a series of incidents and encounters. You find him later trying to put the pieces of his past together. I am not a great fan of this book, and I think that maybe this is not the author for me (I did not like reading The English Patient).

It is expected that a Man Booker winner will come out with only great books! I enjoyed reading this book and absolutely recommend it!

I tried so hard to get into this book. It had everything I normally love in a thriller: mystery, espionage but not enough to hold my attention. I found myself literally fighting sleep trying to make it through chapters. What kind of parents leave their children with strangers? I personally would volunteer if they are as boring as this book was. There was followable plot. To much jumping around. None of the characters resonated with me. I gave up 5 chapters in and will not attempt to finish it.

I found this book to be rather boring at times. That's not to say that this isn't a good big, but it is a bit of a slough fest. I'm sure it's someone's cup of tea but it isn't really for me.

This book book was mesmerising. I don't know how else to describe it... This hit me so hard, and had such a huge emotional impact on me. I would definitely recommend. This novel was so powerful and informative everyone needs to read it

Due to technical difficulties I was never able to read this book as I was never able to get it to down load. That was a disappointment as I was looking forward to reading this.

As a story, very little about the situation makes sense and I felt that there were mysteries to peel back like peeling back each thin skin of an onion. However this really didn’t happen. The backwards and forwards writing style felt deliberately confusing, and always like ‘something’ was about to happen- but it didn’t. As Nathaniel and Rachel grow up, becoming young adults, they are left without answers. And while this is very much how children might view things, it was as if they couldn’t grow up, but then Nathaniel goes on and lives and gets part time jobs, girlfriends, etc., but can never explain where his parents were off to or who his guardians are. And I ceased to care. I couldn’t finish this book. -K

I tried to like this book. But nothing happened. It was incredibly slow and very boring. The pace never picked up!! I wasn't crazy about The English Patient either (but liked it more than this one) so it looks like Ondaatje is just not for me.

"In 1945, our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals." From this first sentence of his novel "Warlight," Michael Ondaatje hooks the reader. Set in England in the decade after World War II, this atmospheric story is told by an unreliable narrator who's only privy to the surface layer of events that impact his life. The reader learns, from 14-year-old Nathaniel and supporting characters (some of whom could have come straight out of a Dickens' novel), about such things as greyhound racing, navigating the minor waterways of London, and spy craft, but most importantly about the importance of family and friends and the varied ways in which loyalty and love can be expressed. Although not an easy or quick read, this novel is one I highly recommend. Thank you to Penguin First To Read for the opportunity to read an ARC.

I have never read a book by Michael Ondaatje before reading "Warlight", but had heard very good reviews for his book "English Patient". Overall I'd rate the book as a 2.5 out of 5 stars. For my first experience reading one of his books, I found it vey difficult to stay connected to the book, and desiring to read more. I found the pace of the story quite slow at times.

"even if the world was a place of continual war." I really don't know what to say about this book. How to explore how powerful it is, without reducing it in some way. It has led me to examine an experience that I will never know on my own. To be a child in war, something that you can not possible understand and which will never leave your life. An amazing book. A study in light and dark. Lives conducted in warlight. 5 stars

I wanted to read this book because I absolutely loved his novel English Patient. I was slightly underwhelmed by the characters. The idea behind the story itself was a great effort, but may have been a better story old in third person. I found Nathaniel tedious and whiny and since the novel was from his point of view, it was a bit tedious itself to read. Again, not a horrible "story" I was just not a personal fan of the main character.

This is my first Michael Ondaatje book and while I think he is great writer, the story itself is just not keeping my attention. The premise is actually very intriguing, but the pacing is just really slow. As a result, I find my attention drifting and this is a book you really need to pay attention to. It's difficult to connect to the characters and while I'm interested to know about Nathaniel's mother, the way the information is presented makes for a somewhat laborious read. I will definitely give another Ondaatje book a try, but unfortunately this one was not for me.

In 1945, after World War II, our two main protagonist, Nathaniel (14 years old) and his sister Rachel (16 years old) are left alone, since their father and mother decide to go to Singapore to do something that we really don't know at the beginning. "The Moth" is going to take care of them, but his friends are really strange: there's "The Darter", who is always with some woman and he's into greyhound racing system, which scares Nathaniel, who thinks that criminals are visiting his house, leaving confusion and uncertainty, while his parents don't seem to come home any soon. Ten years later, Nathaniel is recruited by the Intelligence Service to discover his mother's movements after World War II. He will not come up with great answers, but only with a partial truth. I have to admit, this book is very one of a kind. I'm not an English mother tongue, though I regularly read in English and this book was a little difficult for me, not because of the vocabulary, but because of the style. You need time to consider yourself really engaged in the book, but it's totally worth the time, since it's really unique and really intense. Something I didn't like that much was the change between the first and the third person in the second half of the book. Some of the "verve" was killed and it was a pity. The end may be disappointing in some ways, but I personally think it's a perfect fit for the story. Thank you Penguin Random House for this ARC!

In 1945 London after World War II, siblings Nathaniel, 14 and Rachel, 16 are left to basically fend for themselves. The sudden departure of their father and mother to Singapore unnerves them. Left in charge is their third floor lodger nicknamed "The Moth" by the teenagers. The Moth's associates are shady. Included is the "Darter" who brings a succession of women and the sport of greyhound racing into the lives of already confused teens. Nathaniel, out narrator, expresses his disquietude. It seems that criminals are frequenting the family home. The parents of Nathaniel and Rachel Williams are never to return. A decade later, Nathaniel, recruited by the Intelligence Service, embarks upon a search to unravel mother Rose's movements during and after the war. Many answers will remain blowing in the wind. Nathaniel will only be able to unearth a partial footprint of his mother's enigmatic journey. "Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje was a non-linear read that slowly revealed tidbits of details, frustrations and complications of its characters. Nathaniel's first person narrative was very compelling. When the literary voice changed to the third person, the novel lost some of its steam. Too many unanswered questions, not enough issues brought to light and resolved. For this reader, "Warlight" was a 3 star read. Thank you Penguin Random House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

3 stars Thanks to Penguin's First to Read and Knopf for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Publishes May 8, 2018. I selected this book because of the author, Michael Ondaatje. I read his novel English Patient in the early 90's and l0ved that book. However I was much less enthused about this book. Only having just over 300 pages this novel felt like it was 600 or more pages long. I felt the story was so drug out that it lost any semblance of details. The protagonist, Nathaniel, told the story from the time he was a small boy. Then kept circling back to that time. The story kept introducing characters and then moving on, sometimes with and sometimes without them, only to circle back later in the book and detail each one. Nathaniel's mother and sister kept entering and leaving the novel in much the same fashion. I just could not follow the flow of this story due to the constant circling around. Needless to say I was very disappointed in this novel, especially after having liked The English Patient so much. I still believe that Ondaatje is a very good writer, I was just not able to connect with this particular book.

Warlight is a great addition to Michael Ondaatje's work. Fans of The English Patient will recognize the beautiful, descriptive, well researched way this book is written. Ondaatje's thematic interest in memory and identity and characters living in a state of limbo and confusion (or at least not knowing the full picture) recurs in this book as well. After having a chance to study The English Patient in one of my classes this semester, I have a great appreciation for Ondaatje's skill as a writer and am so glad I got a sneak peek at Warlight. I highly recommend that you check out this book, especially if you are a fan of Ondaatje, historical or literary fiction.

I thought this book was going to be a waste of time. I was pleasantly surprised. It did seem to take off very slowly with a lot of different details of what life was like after the war especially for those that risked their lives to save others. I was not riveted to read this book straight through but rather to enjoy and pay attention to everything that was happening to the many different characters and the roles they played to a motherless child and then again to a motherless adult. Pay attention to every word in the story and take your time in the detail as it all comes to a shattering and totally unexpected ending! It's the details that seem mediocre that are crucial to the ending. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable read that will leave the reader thinking for day, nay weeks after turning the final page!

In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. When we are young we rely on the people who surround us to introduce us to the world, to explain the many elements of life that can be so confusing, overwhelming, or simply opaque to young eyes. Some of this knowledge can only come from first-hand experience, but it helps to have adults at hand, of a trustworthy sort, who can help us along the road of becoming. Nathaniel (aka Stitch) is fourteen. His sister, Rachel, (aka Wren) is sixteen when their parents depart for Singapore on mysterious government assignments after the war, leaving them in the care of the boarder they call “The Moth,” and a fluid cast of what can only be considered dodgy characters, reminiscent of Caravaggio from The English Patient, who was both a criminal and a spy. Questionable they may be, at first glance anyway, but they are a remarkably colorful lot. One of my favorites was one Norman Marshall, aka The Pimlico Darter, aka The Darter, a fellow with a taste for cheating at dog-race betting and transporting materials uncertain, nicely hidden in boxes, from one place to another under cover of night. All very hush-hush, and possibly criminal. There are plenty of other lively supporting characters who stroll, dash, or creep across the pages. The house felt more like a night zoo, with moles and jackdaws and shambling beasts who happened to be chess players, a gardener, a possible greyhound thief, a slow- moving opera singer. It is among these remarkable personalities that Nat and Rachel are introduced to the realities of a world that exists largely in shadows, the dim light redolent of wartime London, or warlight of the title. The first part of the story, Nat and Rachel’s adolescence, takes place in the immediate post-war period. The curtain between war and post-war being sometimes permeable, they are affected by events of a continuing shadow engagement, in which war-time battle driven by armored divisions, fleets of ships, and waves of aircraft was replaced by the dimly-lit conflict of combatants in street clothes, engaged in theatres where stealth and treachery defined the landscape.We passed industrial buildings, their lights muted, faint as stars, as if we were in a time capsule of the war years when blackouts and curfews had been in effect, when there was just warlight and only blind barges were allowed to move along this stretch of river. The focus is primarily on Nathaniel, with Rachel relegated to activities that are mostly reported rather seen first-hand. There is a strong element of coming of age here for Nat, whose experiences in the world of work, whether legal or not, and adventures with the opposite sex expose him to a broader vision of the world. With both parents away, he must look to the adults at hand for role models. It would help if he actually knew what they were really were on about. Further on, we meet him in his late twenties, in a surprising profession, focused on learning the full truth of his mother’s involvement in the war, and with related tasks after.…There’s a photograph I have of my mother in which her features are barely revealed. I recognize her from just her stance, some gesture in her limbs, even though it was taken before I was born… I found it years later in the spare bedroom among the few remnants she had decided not to throw away. I have it with me still. This almost anonymous person, balanced awkwardly, holding on to her own safety. Already incognito. Nat’s search for the truth of his mother, Rose’s, life is, in a way, a stand-in for seeking the truth of his own. Telemachus wanting to learn of his mother’s odyssey. While the primary focus of the book is on Nathaniel, Rose comes in for the next-most attention. Her history is fascinating, and a delight to read. There are many echoes here of the author’s prior work. (I have read several, but not all of his earlier six novels) As he has done before, Ondaatje takes us into war from a place of later reflection through older, wiser eyes, which may remind readers of Anil recalling ethnic slaughter in Sri Lanka in Anil’s Ghost, or the many war scenes in The English Patient. You return to that earlier time armed with the present, and no matter how dark that world was, you do not leave it unlit. You take your adult self with you. It is not to be a reliving, but a rewitnessing. In our look-back, Rose and others engage in mortally perilous missions. Some do battle on the homefront as well, although no less dangerously. Scarring is another feature Ondaatje returns to. The English Patient was surely a high point in the literature of skin miseries. But the experience that scarring suggests shows up here as well. An immigrant with whom Nat works as a teen sports noticeable facial scarring. A co-worker of his mother has less than beautiful hands from his scaling interest. Another has abdominal marks that were clearly nearly mortal and Rose has a decent dose of skin-told-tales as well. He also sustains the motif of almost-darkness in looking back at this time, as well as in the characters’ initial experience of it. There are times these years later, as I write all this down, when I feel as if I do so by candlelight. The darkness extends to identification as well, given how many of the characters are known by their colorful noms du guerre rather than by what might appear on their birth certificates. There are bits of payload you will appreciate here, information about the real world that appears in the story, some information on greyhounds and dog-racing, and covert programs to cope with domestic security risks. You will get a feel for life in London during the aftermath of war, and also in The Saints, an area of England new to me. You will pick up a bit on the range of bird whistle signals that might be used by a secretive Thames-borne barge, and most surprisingly learn a bit about stegophily. (you have to click, at least, to learn that one.) Ondaatje mentions a program of post-war mopping up, called The Silent Correction. I do not know if it refers to something real or imagined. My googling yielded nothing informative, but it does seem like the sort of thing that would have existed. An abbey that is put to another purpose is a fun-fact. An interesting element is the acquisition of skills that might not be so readily acquired during peacetime. A bee-keeper, for example, has a questionable talent for anaesthetics gained during the Italian campaign. A veterinarian is a skilled lock-picker. Ondaatje plants seeds early in the tale that grow to mighty oaks by the end. There is a large twist, serving to remind how what has happened can define what is and direct what can be. We are foolish as teenagers. We say wrong things, do not know how to be modest, or less shy. We judge easily. But the only hope given us, although only in retrospect, is that we change. We learn, we evolve. What I am now was formed by whatever happened to me then, not by what I have achieved, but by how I got here. But who did I hurt to get here? Who guided me to something better? Or accepted the few small things I was competent at? Who taught me to laugh as I lied?...But above all, most of all, how much damage did I do? As in most good novels, there are Easter-egg clues to the novelist’s craft. a high perspective, as from a belfry or cloister roof, allows you to see over walls into usually hidden distances, as if into other lives and countries, to discover what might be occurring there, a lateral awareness allowed by height. This nicely reflects the author’s on-high ability to see past windows into the secrets of his/her characters’ lives. And another nugget. Who made me move from just an interest in “characters” to what they would do to others? And just in case you were not aware, Ondaatje’s writing is poetical, exquisite, and moving. There are many passages in Warlight that call you to return, mull, and savor. A writer who is not fond of linear narrative, he jumps about without much warning, but attentive readers should have little difficulty knowing when they are in the narrative. While considerable attention is paid to the business of international intrigue, that seems more to provide a palette against which the characters can be displayed. Warlight may be about the dim light of history, secrecy, mystery, and uncertainty, but it glows with the luminescence of a master story-teller at the peak of his power. Whether you read by the glow of a low-wattage bulb or under the blaze of the noonday sun, the sparkle will shine through. I found Nat’s story, as well as his mother’s, compelling. Nat’s yearning to cast light on his family’s secrets will lead you along, teach you a thing or two, tug on your emotions, and leave you dazzled. Ondaatje’s portrait of coming of age during dire times, and the perils and prices of desperate measures, will keep you turning pages, whatever the candle-power at your disposal. The challenge of making moral decisions under dangerous and murky conditions that is presented here should, nonetheless, leave you with a simple, unambiguous, choice. Warlight is such a brilliant piece of work that you might need shades.

Two kids left with strangers in London, whilst parents disappeared, with instructions. Unraveling the mystery of mother’s various disappearances cloaked in work for the country of great importance. Great liars for big reasons the narrator lived amidst in his days of youth. Hypnotic, atmospheric, narrative with Intrigue and mystery, a meditation on identity and search for identities and truths. A retrospective reliving to days of teens and coming of age and a thoughtful narrative that slowly illuminates within the reader, the haunting mystery of people and identity. In his younger days aged 14 in first person narrative then older days aged 27:28 when he searches truth of the people he held close to heart and those he didn’t know enough of. Such beauty in discovery, the memorable characters, the mystery carries the story through in this poignant tale crafted with a melody in words that is lucid, somber and nostalgic, therapeutic.

I have conflicted feelings about this book I received as an ARC in exchange for a review. The characters are so human and full of instincts and mistakes. It is a hard book to follow because it jumps from past to future to present with each different character. At first, it seems parents have left their children with a friend while they have to travel for the war. The children, a boy and girl, have different perspectives on this friend and how he is taking care of them. Even after the war has ended, no one is safe. There are undercurrents everywhere with everything. After finishing the book, I am glad I read it, but I cannot say I enjoyed it. I did not feel as though I became a part of the story, but a shocked onlooker of their life events.

Warlight is the story of a mother and a son, divided into two parts. In the first, the narrator, an older Nathaniel who is trying to piece together a story of his youth, tells us about his parents leaving and the cast of quirky characters surrounding him and his sister in the aftermath. He focuses on his own adventures, his exploration of the world around him, and his young love. But more and more, he explores the mystery of the identities of the people around him and how they might be connected to his parents, especially his mother. And then the first part comes crashing to an end. In the second part, Nathaniel removes himself still further, looking back on how things resolved themselves. And he dives deep into the mystery of his mother, working hard to sort out what Rose did during the war and after, whom she knew and loved, who guided her life. It takes him hours of lonely research. The second half is really about her, but also about his effort to see her in himself. In one remembered conversation from much earlier, he asked her what about him reminded her of herself, expecting something about good table manners, perhaps, and she replied by identifying what she saw as two of her faults, and his tendencies towards them. Maybe this whole book is his effort to sort out whether she was right. And in the end, I think I can say this without being accused of any spoilers, I think she was right. Rose is mysterious and dark and untrusting and capable and has a tendency to walk away from relationships. And so her story is intriguing and keeps us all guessing. But Nathaniel finds some of the same in himself, even though he lives in a different time and lives a far duller life. The novel is the weaving of their stories, the separation of their lives, and the result of abandonment of different natures. There are going to be a lot of complaints about the writing style of this novel in the reviews, and I can see where they're coming from, but I enjoyed the richness and unevenness of the narrative. Some are going to protest that it is unrealistic, with objections that start with "no mother would...", but I think Ondaatje makes the case that yes, in some situations and in some cases, at least one mother would. The details that stretched my willingness to suspend disbelief is in the older Nathaniel's imagining of Rose's past love life, something that cannot have come across in his research, but he imagines it while having a one-sided conversation with her departed spirit. It was a little too vivid to be realistic, especially when contrasted with the hazy recollections of his own youth. But his voice was convincing to me, and I sank deep into the story. I really enjoyed this beautifully crafted novel. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

I struggled through the first part of this book and often had to reread whole parts, but was glad that I stuck it out. I think the story was overall well written and the characters were very distinctive. I think that this will appeal to people that read a lot of classic literature. The mother was an active participant in post WWII and this was kept from Nathaniel and Rachel throughout their lives. It shows how this impacted them and their relationship with their mother. I will be looking into more books from this author. I liked the style. Thanks for the ARC, first to read.

As my husband likes to say, this is a grown up author who writes grown up books. And this is definitely a grown up book. I don't say that as a negative, I say it in context of this is not a simple read. Warlight as a definition is the ambient light that helps guide people during the blackouts during the war. The light, by definition isn't clear, it isn't meant to illuminate but to guide. Knowing that, you get a good perspective on how Ondaatje will tell this story. This is the story of Nathaniel and Rachel, told mostly from Nathaniel's perspective. The scene is London just after WWII. Their parents leave for Asia for business and leave them in the care of 'The Moth' and his cohort of friends. However, the story isn't that simple. Things are hidden from the two children and they are aware that things might not be as they seem. Facts and insights are fed to the reader, just like the narrator, like breadcrumbs for us to try and piece together what is happening. Because Ondaatje is a masterful writer and storyteller, this is a compelling read. He weaves a tale and keeps you engaged the whole time. He builds trust with the reader that you will get to the truth, or some version of what 'actually' happens in the end. His descriptions are beautiful. You feel like you are in London, in the house that Nathanial and Rachel share, on the river Thames looking out at the small towns. You definitely get the feeling of foggy, damp and disorientation. And it is exactly what the story calls for. This is a very interesting take on war - what people need to do to survive, what is done to keep us safe and what the effects of these things are on the families that are left behind. This is a well-crafted story told by a masterful writer.

This was not a page turner, but I did enjoy reading this. I'm not sure if I was just distracted or the writing style, but I often got lost and had to flip a few pages back to figure out what was going on - the characters were often hard to keep track of. This does match the perspective of the main character, so it may have been intentional.

I did not bother finishing this one. I got about halfway through but found I did not care about anyone of these characters so I stopped. There are too many things to read to continue to read a book that you hate.

Quite often novels come right out at the very start and illustrate what's at stake, what matters, and where things are going. Not so in Warlight where Ondaatje starts with a bizarre situation of two children abandoned by their parents during wartime England and left with a collection of odd individuals. Very little about the situation makes sense and there are mysteries to peel back like peeling back each thin skin of an onion. We see Nathaniel and Rachel growing up, becoming young adults, left without answers. And, this is very much how children might view things, how things are strange, but Nathaniel goes on and lives and gets part time jobs, girlfriends, etc., but can never explain where his parents were off to or who his guardians are. It's a clever way to develop a story, learning tidbits as Nathaniel does. Nevertheless, we ultimately never learn all that much and are, in a sense, left hanging and waiting for the real story to be revealed but it never really does.

Warlight is one of those simple, quiet books in tone and expression, but heavy and complex in content. Reading this was like standing at the edge of the surf with feet firmly planted on the wet sand. A wave comes and washes away the sand around where your feet are planted, you move and stand in a nearby spot, only to have another wave come in unexpectedly from a diagonal. The tide coming in or going out, neither high tide nor low ... but between. A book of transitions. Transitioning from simple, wide-eyed boyhood to the exploratory but reactionary teenage years, then on to the cusp of adulthood, just when the eyes begin to clear from the fog of having to relearn who he was and is and can be. Warlight attached itself to me in a contradictory way—I found a great deal of it very slow and easy to put down, but when it was down and I was not reading it, I found I was too curious about what Nathaniel would reveal next, and I'd find myself reading it again. Ondaatje's writing is smooth, organic, and beautiful—as though it could be found, in essence, in nature. That lovely writing style helps balance out the withdrawn and remote feeling that the story itself projects. Dear Nathaniel, our narrator, is distant and removed a little—he's keeping the reader at bay, and he never reveals too much. He never overshares—sometimes because he doesn't know, as most of his life was kept secret from him, but also because he plays his cards close to his chest. He learned to do so by force of circumstance, and he was taught so by the people in his life, people known by mysterious monikers—The Moth, The Darter, a girl nicknamed Agnes because of a street name. Actually the majority of the people involved seem unable to escape this double identity, even his mother Rose, code-named Viola, and Nathaniel and his sister Rachel, dubbed Stitch and Wren respectively by their mother. Allowing the reader just glimpses into his life, we meet a carousel of people, but we never truly know them—they rotate in and then back out. Even Nathaniel stays far enough away so that I never felt like I really got to know him, even though he was the navigator through this journey. Throughout the book, I found myself wanting more. I wanted more from him as the guide, the captain of this story. Explore more. Demand more. Feel more. Reveal more. But he's scared and he's private and he's still transitioning. It's really Ondaatje's beautiful writing, somehow both reserved and lyrical, that holds this one together. Warlight gives that feeling of the hazy space in between dreaming and waking—foggy and difficult to navigate, you just have to continue plodding forward. In that way, and for books in this style, it reminds me of the most basic lesson of life...it simply continues...and here is just a snippet, a small dose, and then it's gone.

The writing in this book is beautiful, that much is true. However, it reads more like a set of vaguely connected vignettes, without enough actual active plot to keep the reader moving forward. It is a book that I knew I would finish, but it's a book that took me an achingly long time. I kept picking up and reading different books while in the middle of this one, because between the unclear plot and the vague characters, there wasn't enough to keep me going through the whole time. The characters are written in a way that hooks the reader in, but then not enough is revealed to keep the audience invested in any one of them. I don't know that I can wholeheartedly recommend this book because of that - however, if that is a style you prefer, then I believe this book will please.

Ondaatje is one of the few authors who own real estate in my literary heart and WARLIGHT, his latest novel only cements his position there. The story of two teenaged siblings in the aftermath of World War ll is a lyrical and insightful coming-of-age tale akin to the author's previous book, THE CAT'S TABLE. The two stories are familial in theme - children displaced due to events in history, not a parent to be found anywhere and a rich cast of characters mentoring and shaping their future selves. I felt as though Nathaniel and Rachel (Warlight) could in fact, be distant cousins of Michael and Emily (actual cousins in The Cat's Table). The backdrop of post-Blitz London is purposefully atmospheric and shrouds the story of Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel in mystery and shadow, as they are left in the care of a guardian nicknamed The Moth while their parents supposedly travel to Singapore for work. When it is discovered their mother did not in fact go to join their father but is for all intents and purposes "missing", the loss of innocence is almost instantaneous for both adolescents. Assured their mother is fine by the Moth, the children carry on with the routine of boarding school and care as provided by their questionable mentor, who may or may not be affiliated with the underworld, and shows them both kindness and disregard in an Absinthe-laced haze. Many of The Moth's associates have a profound impact on Nathaniel, the story's narrator. In the company of the Pimlico Darter, a former boxing champion, he learns responsibility, how to drive, and experiences his first taste of power in the handling of illegal greyhounds, smuggled in from unknown ports and given forged papers attesting their pedigree. Olive Lawrence, a brief affair for the Darter, inspires both siblings and provides comfort on a dark night, identifying nature sounds and assuring them there is nothing to fear. She is a rich, compelling character, independent and accomplished, a world traveler who sends postcards from exotic locals in her work as an ethnographer. Those are just a few examples, Warlight is loaded with great characters and imaginative subplots and a testament to the cloudiness of childhood memory when compared to fact later in life. As Nathaniel reflects back on this period of his life, he considers what he thought he knew then to what he learned later about his parents departure, his mother's secret war efforts and unexplained absence, and his sister's maturity and distance; the fallout of time and circumstance. Warlight is a beautiful and tenderly written tribute to family, both the one we're born with and the one we find along the way. Ondaatje's prose, as always, is breathtaking and I suspect this novel will make every literary awards list there is, deservedly so. Best book of 2018 for this reader, hands down. Thank you to Penguin Random House for this digital ARC in exchange for a candid review.

I wanted to try a book different from what I normally read unfortunately I was never really drawn into the story. There just wasn't enough movement to keep my interest.

This is a wonderful book. After finishing it, I immediately started rereading it. It’s a story set shortly after WWII when young Nathaniel and his sister Rachel are left by their parents in the care of a man they call The Moth. Slowly, we and Nathaniel begin to understand the circumstances: their mother played a significant part in post-war activities. As Nathaniel learns, the past never remains in the past. And we can never completely escape from our past and the circumstances we were born into. The story is achingly full of regrets, forgiveness and acceptance, told in hindsight. Masterfully written, this book is destined to be a classic.

I really wanted to like this one as the description sounds like something I’d love, but I just could not get into this book. The writing was flat, the plot didn’t really seem to be there, and it was not mesmerizing.

The publisher’s description of Warlight leads one to believe that the novel will focus on the lives of two teenagers, a brother (Nathanial) and sister (Rachel) who were abandoned by their parents during World War II, peaking the curiosity of the reader to wonder how they will survive/thrive under such circumstances. But the storyline is far from this simple or engaging. Several characters are introduced: Agnes, the Moth, the Darter, among others. The character sketches are insufficiently developed, so the reader continues to wonder who these people are at their core and what significance they actually play. Additionally, the storyline meanders from scene to scene without much direction or purpose, leaving the reader to guess at the intention of the author as he wrote this novel. Succinctly, I would not have finished reading the book had I not felt an obligation to provide a review to Penguin’s First to Read Program.

Warlight tells the story of two teens in wartime London whose parents leave under nebulous circumstances. If I had to outline the plot, it would seem very compelling, but as the narrative was equally as nebulous. I spent a fair amount of time trying to understand the subtexts, making the read more cumbersome than it could have been. I have really mixed feelings about this book; I liked the idea of it, but the practicality of reading it was less enticing. (And I was also left with several unanswered questions.) Bottom line: arms'-length storytelling shrouded in inferences the author hopes I make is not really my thing.

Interesting characters and creative construction to weave their stories together. Despite the way everything comes together at the end, I was left wanting to know more about many of the characters, especially the sister. Couldn't help but think of Lemony Snicket after reading the first few pages.

I failed to connect with this story.

This sounded very promising but it fell flat. Its long and rambling just did not hold my interest.

Warlight is a story about being left on the home front during and just after WWII. It has an extremely long, slow-moving opening act without ever really coming to an interesting climax or satisfactory conclusion.

WARLIGHT is a post-WWII Bildungsroman that never fulfills its promise; basically because so little of it is believable. A teen and his sister are abandoned in 1946 England by their parents with a recent, yet unknown, boarder presumably for a year. The year becomes a lifetime and the adult (former teen) does some sleuthing to determine what the real story might have been behind his parents’ disappearance. If only the tale was actually inspiring, taut, fascinating or compelling. It is lackluster and confusing, no doubt how it felt to the children, but equally unpleasant to read. I’ve no suggestions how to improve the reading experience; this one is a tough sell from a great author. I received my copy from Penguin’s First to Read Program.

The title of the novel comes from the dim lights that were used to provide the minimum illumination on the streets during WWII in London. As the story opens, Nathaniel and Rachel's parents have gone away and left them in the care of two men. The whereabouts of the parents are not known and no one is willing to fill the children in on the reasons for the absence of their parents. Nathaniel later works for a government agency and is able to put together the details of his mother's life. This is a very character-driven novel and they are great characters, all bound by their loyalty to Nathaniel's mother.

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.


More to Explore

  • The English Patient
  • Anil's Ghost
  • Running in the Family
  • In the Skin of a Lion

Copy the following link