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, 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...
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • ♥ 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Creager
    Should you read Warlight? If you read English Patient and thought I should read the new Ondaatje, I would just read The English Patient again. I also give similar advice with the Ian McEwan bibliography, just read Atonement. Interestingly, if you are still feeling inclined to read Warlight, just read Atonement due to the successful play by play of a child’s point of view, whereas in Warlight Nathaniel’s self-centered POV is so lackluster it d...
  • Martha Gordon
    Surprisingly, I ended up loving this story. "War never ends." How true!
  • Moray Teale
    It’s World War II in London and Nathaniel and his sister are left by their parents in the care of a mysterious and somewhat dubious figure known as the Moth. His acquaintances are unusual, varied and often rather suspicious and the two children soon come to the conclusion that their soft-spoken guardian is a criminal. But why would their parents leave them under the eye of such a man? Why did they leave so suddenly for Singapore? Why is their m...
  • Clay
    Michael Ondaatje's books are for those who enjoy the sentence by sentence journey of a story and the depths the gradual accretion of beautiful, thoughtful sentences can reach. I read this wondering if the story--two teenagers left by their parents in the care of men who might be criminals during WWII--might be a young adult story, but it solidly adult in style. What the story's really about is the young man's lifelong search to understand who is ...
  • 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...
  • Andy Weston
    Ondaatje’s Warlight is a novel of two halves, set in London just after the Second World War. The first half of the book concerns the adolescence of the narrator, X, who when the novel begins is 14 years old, and his parents have just mysteriously left him and his older sister in the care of one of their household lodgers, The Moth, for a lengthy trip away. It takes a while for Xs new life to settle, as he changes schools, and comes of age throu...
  • Liviu
    While the first two pages are striking the book slows down considerably after and I almost put it down, but as I usually do in such cases I started flipping through it and reading random pages and the second part gripped me as it is awesome; the first part (action takes place in 1945-7 when the main character Nathaniel/Stitch is 14-16) was still kind of slow and not that engaging, but the second part (action takes place in 1959, though it is real...
  • Davida Chazan
    How lucky am I that I got to read and review my favorite author’s newest novel before its publication date? Yes, Michael Ondaatje has a new book coming out shortly, and if you want to know what I thought of it (as if you can’t guess already), I invite you to read my review of this book on my blog, here. http://drchazan.blogspot.com/2018/04/...
  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    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 hi...
  • Mary Lins
    Opening the pages of "Warlight", the new novel by Michael Ondaatje, is like stepping back to 1945, both because of the setting and because of the elegant prose. Immediately after the war, most of London still in rubble from The Blitz, siblings, Rachel and Nathaniel find themselves largely on their own after their parents decamp to Singapore leaving them under the dubious guardianship of a "friend" whom they call The Moth. Gradually it is revealed...
  • Alison
    8.8/10. There’s almost nothing I love more than a poetic spy novel. And this is probably my favorite Ondaatje since “In The Skin of a Lion,” even if the twist is kind of unnecessary.
  • Elyse
    Penguin First-to-Read ARC.Reading the summary, it sounds so intriguing! But it's just not. 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. I guess I don't understand his subtleties and way of writing. Oh well!
  • Lou
    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...
  • Kristen Beverly
    Beautiful words on the page, but I felt like I didn’t connect or care about any of the characters as they were written on the page. I wanted more of Rachel and The Moth, but I felt like after the first part, they only came up sporadically. I wish their characters had been fleshed out more throughout the whole story, as they were the interesting ones.
  • Lisa
    Warlight is a different story told in an interesting way. During WWII but very different from most of the novels. Brother and sister are left by their parents in the care of a man they grow to care for but always wonder where their parents are and what they are doing and why were they left behind. The mother is the primary focus but we never really know her or her motives or her character, she remains aloof even after returning to her kids. Writt...
  • Sarah
    I knew I was in for a treat from the first sentence, “In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals”. Nathaniel and his sister Rachel experience their teenage years as a series of seemingly random adventures, in the care of family friends known to them as The Moth and The Darter. Then, looking back years later, Nathaniel examines and orders what really happened in those years after WWII. How much...
  • Karlan
    This haunting story narrated by a boy whose mother did undercover intelligence work during and after WWII is memorable. I found myself thinking of Proust and small memories which evoke a person, a place, a time. The opening section may appeal to teen readers, but only more sophisticated readers would finish the later sections. The characters are fascinating and the language exceptional as nostalgia is evoked and questions answered.
  • Corey
    Excellent. Review to come at memphisflyer.com.