BOOK REVIEW: Warlight

WARLIGHT
Michael Ondaatje

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this novel.


The narrator writes “When you attempt a memoir, I am told, you need to be in an orphan state. So what is missing in you, and the things you have grown cautious and hesitant about, will come almost casually towards you. ‘A memoir is the last inheritance,’ you realize, so that during this time you must learn how and where to look.” This is a story about missing things: missing parents, missing pieces of a story, missing persons who leave or are left. And a good, good story at that. I only wish I’d saved it for a weekend read to allow for less interruptions in my reading. There are multiple time periods, subtle POV shifts, and many characters that are all best kept track of in a concentrated space of time. — Jen Payne