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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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 ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Gumble's Yard
    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 am now at an age where I can talk about it, of how we grew up protected by the arms of strangers. And it ...
  • Ayelet Waldman
    The point of writing novels is to get early galleys of incredible novels like this one. My book is kicking my ass so hard that I think one of the reasons I’m still in this business is because I get to read books like this.
  • 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...
  • Stephanie Anze
    "In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals."So begins fourteen-year-old Nathaniel's story. His parents announce that they will be leaving to Singapore for a year and leaving him and his sister Rachel in the care of their boarder "The Moth". The Moth is an elusive man that could disapper for days at a time, may be involved in illicit activities and yet he was to become their guardian. Soon, their ...
  • Nancy
    "In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals." WarlightFrom the opening line, I fell into under the spell of Nathaniel's story about how he and his sister Rachel were abandoned at ages fourteen and sixteen to the care of relative strangers, their third-floor lodger, whom they called The Moth, and the Pimlico Dancer.After their father departed, going to Asia for his work, never to be seen again, the...
  • Doug
    4.5, rounded up.My only previous encounter with Ondaatje prior to this was his Booker Award-winning 'The English Patient', and this has many of the same elements - for good and ill. The good includes exquisite prose, an exciting and involving story set in the years following WW II, and quirky characters that stick with you. Although the first section reads quickly, linearly and smoothly, the second part (purposefully and probably necessarily) fra...
  • Netta
    I bet you've already read this book many times. Imagine a coming of age novel (sort of) with a protagonist - a boy - whose life was torn apart by something which no ordinary human being can control (let's say, WW2, as it suits so many purposes of modern fiction). Imagine this said boy dealing with consequences of his parents and guardians mistakes. Suffering. Well, not-really-coming-of-age, in fact. We all know that oh so popular kind of protagon...
  • Stephen P
    Epigraph: “Most of the great battles are fought in the creases of topographical maps.”A world of abandonment; a young boy and his slightly older sister are left by their parents in their family home in the care of someone who they name, The Moth.Grown, our narrator is looking back on his life of searching for, knowledge of his mother and the scattered pieces of his life. It traverses the gathering of pieces of one’s dislocated self. The sea...
  • Andrea Johnston
    Beginning as I do at the beginning, and taking two steps back to reflect, I have to say that I was ready (and raring) to give "Warlight" a bad review. Especially after I read some of the other reviews on the work. However, upon the completion of those two important backward steps and the conviction that my old Canadian Literature professor would be gravely disappointed that I didn't "dig deeper," I have come to a very different conclusion.For fan...
  • Dave
    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 a...
  • ♥ Sandi ❣
    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...
  • Lisa Lieberman
    When one of my favorite writers releases a new book, I set aside whatever I'm in the middle of reading and leap right in. I avoid reviews. I want to come to the work fresh, knowing as little about the story as possible. I opened Warlight and prepared to enter Ondaatje territory. Only it wasn't Ondaatje territory. It was more like Modiano territory. The young hero and his older sister are left more or less to fend for themselves in postwar London,...