Warlight by 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 convinc...

Details Warlight

Release DateJun 7th, 2018
PublisherJonathan Cape
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, War, Literary Fiction, World War II

Reviews Warlight

  • Will Byrnes
    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 b...
  • Elyse
    Damn this was good!!!! I purposely stayed away from reviews- but now I’m dying to read what others have to say - especially since I’m ‘long-winded review-retired’ for the rest of 2018. From the title itself, “Warlight”, to the luring first line in the novel - “In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals”......I was completely captivated to the end.Nathaniel—is an adult writing abo...
  • Jeffrey Keeten
    “Mahler put the word schwer beside certain passages in his musical scores. Meaning ‘difficult.’ ‘Heavy.’ We were told this at some point by The Moth, as if it was a warning. He said we needed to prepare for such moments in order to deal with them efficiently, in case we suddenly had to take control of our wits. Those times exist for all of us, he kept saying. Just as no score relies on only one pitch or level of effort from musicians in...
  • Tammy
    This might have been a coming of age novel but it’s not. It might have been a post WWII novel but it’s not. It might have been a family drama of sorts but it’s not. The narration is messy, the plot is pointless and the premise is unbelievable. Warlight meandered about without a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Violet wells
    A master craftsman at the height of his powers. I could have gone on reading this until kingdom come. If I had to compare Ondaajte's novels with a city it would be Venice. Venice which so eloquently visualises the poetic ordering demands of memory and the exalting aspirations of identity. Venice which is washed through with the simultaneously life affirming and melancholy tang of tidal salt water. Warlight is a novel about the secret underlife of...
  • Hannah Greendale
    In Warlight, Ondaatje has crafted an ode to twentieth-century storytelling. A purposeless hero, a disdain for plot, and a lack of sensational revelations equate to a mind-numbing read in which nothing much happens. In 1945 London, fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel, are abandoned by their parents, left in the care of a guardian selected by their mother. By following Nathaniel in his formative years, Ondaatje presumably inten...
  • Lori
    Your parents left you with two dodgy characters while they left for a year-long trip! Neither our storyteller, Nathaniel (Stitch) nor his sister, Rachel (Wren) know either man very well. He slowly unravels answers. Each one reveals more questions. It’s probably better that way. I was fourteen at the time, and Rachel nearly sixteen, and they told us we would be looked after in the holidays by a guardian, as our mother called him—we used to cal...
  • Seemita
    When the weapon inflicting a wound is done with its work, it hops onto to its next victim with a repugnant nonchalance. It doesn’t look back, it has barely any emotion. But it does not do the disappearing act before leaving behind the story of the 'scar' – the scar hidden inside the wound. And the thing about scars is that they are permanent, or nearly so.Nathaniel was unfortunate to receive one such scar early on in his life, in 1945, when h...
  • Roger Brunyate
     A Lost Inheritance We continued through the dark, quiet waters of the river, feeling we owned it, as far as the estuary. 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 were in effect, when there was just warlight and only blind barges were allowed to move along this stretch of river. I watched the welterweight boxer whom I had once perceived as hars...
  • Katie
    I wish I hadn't read thisBecause then I'd still have it to readJust stunning.
  • Karen
    A very different sort of coming of age story, with the most dramatic first sentence to entice you into this world. 1945. Post war, bombed out London. Nathaniel and Ruth.. teenage brother and sister left in the care of a man called “The Moth” a shady character, while their parents go awayto Singapore.A mysterious tale that is full of adventure ..and secrets that Nathaniel becomes aware of as he ages.My first Michael Ondaatje novel. Will be rea...
  • Dianne
    Quiet, contemplative coming-of-age/historical fiction novel set in England in 1945 just after World War II ends. Fourteen year old Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel have been left with a mysterious caretaker, whom they dub "The Moth," while their parents travel to Singapore for a year for business. And yet - nothing and no one are what they seem. The unveiling of what is really going on and who their parents and the dubious friends are is a s...
  • Trish
    What a beautiful book this is, and how it reminds us how many people go before us, unsung, unremarked, unremembered. A teenaged boy and his slightly older sister find themselves attending separate but proximate boarding schools rather suddenly one year while their parents have taken off for Singapore. The schools are not happy matches and the kids meet up and decide to run away. They return home where a curious bachelor holds fort in their absenc...
  • Gumble's Yard
    Now longlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize and with a postscript to my review added after its longlisting. So we began a new life. I did not quite believe it then. And I am still uncertain whether the period that followed disfigured or energised my life. I was to lose the pattern and restraint of family habits during that time and, as a result, later on, there would be a hesitancy in me, as if I had too quickly exhausted my freedoms. In any case I...
  • Hugh
    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018There is plenty to like about this book - it is always readable, the plotting is clever and some of the stories are fascinating, but for me it never quite lived up to its potential.The opening draws you in quickly: "In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.". The narrator Nathaniel spends the first part of the book reminiscing about his teenage years in th...
  • Maxwell
    [3.5 stars]A very good novel. Ondaatje has a way of capturing the reader, transporting them and creating a rich atmosphere. There's clearly a lot of research done for this story—though at times evidently too much, perhaps, as it tends to get a bit verbose and bog down the narrative. But I loved Nathaniel as a main character and coming to understand things in shadows and glimpses as he discovers them himself. It's an intriguing story with lovely...
  • Michael
    What a terrific read, charming and nostalgic on the adventures of childhood as with his delightful "The Cat's Table", and thrilling over the persisting dangers of past transgressions in the name of country, as in his “Anil’s Ghost.” Here we have a narrator, Nathaniel, at far post-war perspective, recounting his shaken world after his parents disappeared on him and his sister in their adolescence in London right after World War 2, leaving th...
  • Tony
    The narrator is a sixteen year-old boy, at the start. He has an older sister. The Second World War has just ended. But there are, you know, loose ends. His parents say they must go to Singapore, and quickly. Business. No need to disrupt the children's school. They'll be reunited soon.But parents lie.Before they learn the truth they learn avuncular lessons. A woman takes them into the woods in the dark, and speaks as a poem, or song: "It's a warm ...
  • Chrissie
    “We order our lives with barely held stories.”Here lies the central message of the book. The words are said by Nathaniel, the story’s central protagonist and narrator. The book opens in 1945. Nathaniel is fourteen and his sister, Rachel, almost sixteen. They live in London. Their father and mother seem to have abandoned them! The parents tell the siblings that while they are in Singapore, Rachel and Nathaniel will remain in England, each in...
  • Faith
    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 seeme...
  • Meike
    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018Michael Ondaatje meditates on how we construct ourselves through the past - and he does it in elegic prose, highlighting the details that become instructive to understand the bigger picture, and illustrating the human need to somehow make sense of our own personal history. In "Warlight", this personal history is intertwined with world history, and like a historian tries to find the most enlightening ways to...
  • Ellie
    This may be my favorite book so far this year.Just when I thought I may no longer be interested in reading novels, this one comes along. Superbly written: so many lines I wanted to copy down that there would be nothing left unmarked! And those sentences often not only beautifully written but thought-provoking as well. The story begins in England with 14-year-old Nathaniel and his slightly older sister Rachel saying good-bye to their parents who a...
  • Peter Boyle
    In the opening pages of this beguiling novel, the narrator Nathaniel Williams is looking back on 1945, when he was 14, and "our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals." He and his sister Rachel are soon shocked to learn that their mother is not at all who they believed her to be. They make the best of their new living arrangement - their guardian, the Moth, turns out to be a caring and thoughtful surrogat...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    On the heels of Michael Ondaatje winning the Golden Man Booker Prize for his book The English Patient, his newest novel Warlight is now on the longlist for this year's Man Booker Prize. The English Patient, which won the Man Booker in 1992, is set in 1945 and follows a cast of characters after the end of World War II. Warlight, which is up for the Man Booker now, is set in 1945 and follows a brother and sister after the end of World War II. Oh wa...
  • Roman Clodia
    What I am now was formed by whatever happened to me then, not by what I have achieved, but by how I got here ‘In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who might have been criminals’: in the pantheon of great opening lines this one is right up there: simple, intriguing, beautifully balanced – it’s a shame, then, that the rest of the book didn’t capitalise on this opener.Definitely a book of two halves, the first i...
  • Truman32
    Michael Ondaatje’s wonderful new novel, Warlight, tells the story of fourteen-year old Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel as they are abandoned at their post-war London home by their secret-agent parents. This might possibly be one of the biggest cases of child neglect since my own parents left my older sister and me one horribly rainy afternoon when we were just children. In that instance, as my sister Sally and I realized (with the never-e...
  • Ace
    When I read a book by an acclaimed author, prize winner of prestigious awards and loved by many, especially my GR friends, I think I too will love the book, or at least enjoy a good story. Unfortunately, I wasn't all that excited by this one and as a historical piece, it was new to me, but I didn't warm to any of the characters and kept wondering, where is this going? The reveals at the end were not that spectacular and I am left wondering if aga...
  • Jill
    The word “warlight” suggests a murky shrouded light that serves to only partially and poorly illuminate a tableau, and indeed, this is an apt title for Michael Ondaatje’s latest book.Our narrator is a teenage boy, Nathaniel Williams, who is left, with his slightly older sister Rachel “in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” Their mother, Rose, disappears from their lives in 1945, purportedly to engage in some sort of underc...