Warlight ~ by Michael Ondaatje

Nominated by me to read in the Cafe Deletterati reading group –  I was hoping I enjoyed this Ondaatje as much as I’ve enjoyed his priors (that I’ve read) and also kind of in honor of his winning the Golden Booker Prize – 2018  – best in 50 years of Man Booker Prizes. for The English Patient which I read much to long ago to have reviewed here.   I did enjoy it and I feel like I should read it again but … on to the new one.

by Michael Ondaatje
2018/305 pages
read by Steve West – 8h 36m
rating:  8 / contemporary fiction
(may read it again)

The book starts out as told by an unnamed  1st person narrator,    Nathaniel Williams,  who, with his sister Rachel,  only two years older,  are left alone in Nathanial’s 16th year with a strange man named Moth (their nickname for him).  This is while their parents are away in the far east – or so the children were told.

Nathaniel is remembering this from some time in the future – how they get involved in apparently rather nefarious things – it is just post-wartime after all,  and then there’s the aftermath of that.

The story unfolds and it’s not really clear what’s going on for a long time.  Nathaniel certainly doesn’t know –  a very naive but fairly sharp narrator.  And when he’s older he realizes he doesn’t have all the pieces to his puzzle.   So we don’t always really know what going on with the other people in our lives,  even the important people – our families.  And in the spy business during and after wartime,  the questions of who is who and what’s going on gets tricky

Beautifully written,  very atmospheric with tension tightening even when the plot seems to wander.   The characters are shadowed but their pain is searing even through the fog.

I’m not sure I got everything the first time round –  this book  may need a 2nd reading .  🙂

Washington Post review

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5 Responses to Warlight ~ by Michael Ondaatje

  1. Lisa Hill says:

    I tried to buy this today and they were all sold out!
    I should have read it when I had a copy from the library but I ran out of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carmen says:

    Glad you enjoyed this one so much. I bought a Kindle version about a month ago after I read a review of it from another blogger friend. I don’t know if I will get to it this year, though; if I don’t, then I’ll read it in the first few months of next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Becky, I finished reading “Warlight” this afternoon, and it is, as you mentioned, an atmospheric novel with an intriguing story. The narrator is Nathaniel, now an adult, and he tells how his mother left him and his sister, Rachel, to do some unexplained work for the government during WWII. They’re left in the care of the Moth, a friend of their mother’s, and Norman, otherwise known as “The Darter” because of the way he races around in his car doing all sorts of apparently criminal activities, importing greyhounds into Britain, running nitroglycerine around London for weapon-making. There are women involved, one of whom, Olive, has a great influence on Nathaniel. I won’t write anymore, to avoid slipping out any spoilers, but I must say that this is a brilliantly written book, well-deserving of the Booker Prize. Thanks!


    • Good light summary! I did reread it and most of it cleared up – It’s Ondaatje at his usual fine work. I’m sure it will make the short list – it’s classic Booker material, but it’s hard to predict an overall winner.


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