Warlight

Warlight

Book - 2018
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Decades after World War II, Nathaniel Williams reflects on his experiences in 1945, when his parents left him and his sister in the care of a mysterious neighbor.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780525521198
0525521194
Branch Call Number: FIC ONDAATJ 2018
Characteristics: 289 pages ; 22 cm

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fred98115
May 16, 2019

It is World War Two and two children are shuffled between different locations, staying with eccentric characters, while, unknown to them, their parents are aiding Britain's war effort. Told from the perspective of the eldest child, a son, who joined MI6 when an adult and then researches his mother's checkered past. Seems written in fits and starts.

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rlbeekman
Mar 01, 2019

Ondaatje is a fine prose stylist with acutely observed and distinctive -- and sometimes funny -- descriptions of unusual places, characters, and incidents. However, the story has a ramshackle structure papered over by arbitrary mystification and overinflated bromides about the vagaries of memory and secrecy. This general rationalizing fog about the story line is belied by the many passages of sharply rendered details. Noted: the cameo appearance given V.S. Naipaul on pages 175-176.

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MelissaBee
Jan 27, 2019

Author Michael Ondaatje revisits familiar territory in "Warlight," a work of fiction centered on two phases of a young man's life: his teen years when his parents abandon him to the care of strangers at the end of WWII, and a decade later when he tries to piece together the story of where his mother went in those years and why. Much like his semi-autobiographical work "Running in the Family," and his bildungsroman, "The Cat's Table," Ondaatje explores the frailty of memory, the disappointments of family, and the succor one can find among strangers.

Like much of Ondaatje's more recent work, "Warlight" offers up memorable characters in arresting circumstances, viewed through the lens of a narrator's search for the origin of some present discontent. While this creates rich narratives full of reflection on the human condition, it also hinders this work in two ways. First, Ondaatje can sometimes belabor the meaning of a carefully crafted scene to the point of breaking it by too ardently insisting the reader see the significance of a moment. Secondly, his otherwise fascinating female characters can be distorted when the emphasis falls too narrowly on how they have shaped the male narrator. Another weakness is the author's attempt to make his male characters more authentic through the work that they do, which is sometimes described in more detail than is really necessary to develop the story.

Still, for these flaws, Ondaatje is a singular talent whose melancholic writing can be deeply arresting and well worth pushing past a sometimes too heavy hand. I highly recommend "Warlight" to readers who savor historical fiction, unusual characters, and illuminating prose.

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GummiGirl
Jul 03, 2018

A compelling story in which various pieces of the tale are slowly brought together. Plenty of memorable characters and good atmosphere.

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MelissaBee
Jan 27, 2019

MelissaBee thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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