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3.61  ·  Rating details ·  39,447 ratings  ·  4,972 reviews
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 Th ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 7th 2018 by Jonathan Cape (first published May 2018)
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Betty This is a hilarious question. One good reason why you should read ANY book...because you want to read it?
Robyn The novel is not lengthy, but I would agree with Roger. Do not rush through reading this book; the prose is wonderful and, when you allow the words to…moreThe novel is not lengthy, but I would agree with Roger. Do not rush through reading this book; the prose is wonderful and, when you allow the words to wash over you, you will find that come away with some new understandings of what it means to belong to a family, and even how to define family. Additionally, Ondaatje is a master of language, so I would say sit back and enjoy. This novel is not a light summer read, but it is a worthwhile read. I know I will revisit it time and time again, just as I did with The English Patient.(less)

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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  39,447 ratings  ·  4,972 reviews

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Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 becoming. Nathaniel (aka Stitch) is fourteen. Hi
Elyse  Walters
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 about his life.
In childhood, Nathaniel, 14, and Rachel 16, get entangl
Jeffrey Keeten
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“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 the orchestra. Sometimes it relies on silence. It was a str ...more
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 intends to explore the aftereffects of war, to examine
Violet wells
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 identity and about how we seek to construct memor
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a novel about the after-shock of WWII in the lives of one family. I don’t know if the rest of the Allies experienced it the same way, but in Europe, the adjustment period was in many ways as cruel and fierce and bloody as the war itself. And it went on for years.

Nathaniel (14) and his sister Rachel (16) inherited much of that chaotic time. As Nathaniel narrates his recollections of this period in their lives, I felt such a deep sadness for these two. The teen years can be challenging eno
An extraordinarily multilayered and complex historical novel exploring the nature of memory, and a coming of age story set primarily in post war London in 1945. Nathaniel, 14, and his older sister, Rachel are ostensibly abandoned to the care of what they perceive as oddball, suspect and criminal characters. They are chiefly The Moth, their lodger, ex- boxer The Pimlico Darter and others that enter their lives, some fleetingly, but never to be forgotten such as Olive Lawrence, the independent wom ...more
Wew, this was a tough and beautiful book at the same time. It is a coming of age story of fourteen-year old Nathaniel (the narrator of this story, looking back....) and his older sister Rachel, in post-war England. Their parents have disappeared from their lives and they are surrounded by a colorful set of characters who seem there to protect them. Mysterious, intriguing, I mean, what is going on... all those characters and also beautiful storytelling and beautiful language. But tough story to g ...more
Diane S ☔
I am going to leave this unrated. At 35% I am putting this one down, unfinished. Usually enjoy this author for the wonderful way he uses words, and this book did have some of that, but the story just did not resonate with me. Maybe it's my mood, maybe I'll pick it up again sometime, but for now I'm done. ...more
I wish I hadn't read this
Because then I'd still have it to read
Just stunning.
You know those moments when you find an author you think you're going to like, but you chose the wrong book of theirs to start with? That's what happened with Warlight. This was not a good book, but I don't think it's over between me and Ondaatje. More on that in a minute.

Warlight was almost unbearably boring. I'm sorry, I know that 'boring' is the kind of pedestrian critique that we try to stay away from while reviewing, but I'm not sure I've ever read a book that felt this utterly pointless. T
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 call him “The Moth,” a name we had invented. Ours was a
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Paula by: Booker
Longlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2018, WARLIGHT is a brilliant and beautifully written novel. Michael Ondaatje is such a captivating storyteller.

The mysterious nature of this book is so engaging. I listened to the audiobook and was thankful that I had done so. The narrator pulls you right in with wanting to know more about this post WWII tale of two teens, 14 year old Nathaniel and his sister, 16 year old Rachel. Both parents leave behind their children to go off to Asia on a supposed bus
Roger Brunyate
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 harsh and antagonistic turn and look towards me, talk
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 he was 14-years old to be precise. Those were unusual d
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

There 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 the odd company of "The Moth", who becomes his and h
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 away
to 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 reading more of him!
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful and above all very mysterious novel. The mystery remains largely unrevealed. Two teenagers are abandoned by their parents who apparently still had undercover operations abroad to perform after the ending of WW-II. These activities are obviously so important that they leave their children in the care of trusted caretakers. These men don’t reveal anything to the children as to the predicaments their parents are in. Thus, these children’s lives feel like they are living on drifting sand ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 slow reveal, but Ondaatje's stellar writing and the ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: publisher, reviewed
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 seemed like it was going to be a coming of age tale tur
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 absence. The teens begin a whole new type of education.

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
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 am now at an age where I can talk about it, of
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 them in the care of a shady character they call “The Moth” ...more
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 evening . . . and the pitch of the crickets is in
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
[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 writing.
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
3.5 - 4 hard to call stars
My reviews can be seen here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

We probably will never know all there is to know about war, and the bravery of some who fought in it.
It's 1945 and London has been bombed again and again by the Luftwaffe, left in a deplorable state at the conclusion of the war. The city and its residents are reeling and in this tale we meet two young children, Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel. They have been literally deserted by their parents, left
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018
Michael 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 understand past events, our protagonist, Nathanie
“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 installed in their respective boarding schools. They detes
Warlight is my first experience of Michael Ondaatje writing and I realize I have been missing something major. In this novel of family, which explores the boundaries of family in post -war Britain, we follow the life of Nathaniel and his sister Rachel, 14 and 16 respectively, whose parents have returned from wartime duties they will not specify. Now they are leaving again for Asia, unable or unwilling to give any further details. In their stead, they leave a series of people who seem as unreal a ...more
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He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit ...more

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78 likes · 24 comments
“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 the orchestra. Sometimes it relies on silence. It was a strange warning to be given, to accept that nothing was safe anymore. “ ‘Schwer,’ ” he’d say, with his fingers gesturing the inverted commas, and we’d mouth the word and then the translation, or simply nod in weary recognition. My sister and I got used to parroting the word back to each other—“schwer.” 27 likes
“You return to that earlier time armed with the present, and no matter how dark that world was, you do not leave it unlit. You take your adult self with you. It is not to be a reliving, but a rewitnessing.” 21 likes
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