Play Book Tag discussion

August 2018: Espionage > Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje (5 stars)

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2666 comments #3 off the Booker longlist.

In the aftermath of World War II, Nathaniel and Rachel's parents leave them behind in England while they go to Singapore. After a brief and miserable stay at boarding school, the children stay instead with their parent's lodger, whom they nickname "The Moth", and a motley crowd of the Moth's friends and associates - mostly misfits and eccentrics, with the occasional criminal element thrown in.

It's hard to say more without spoilers (including how apt the title is on multiple levels or how it fits the espionage tag), so I'll leave it there, but I found the story intriguing and thoroughly worth while.

The real beauty of the book though (apart from the glorious writing) is that it's an exploration of the past, glimpsed through the unreliable haze of a child's memories, understanding and perception - half-remembered events and conversations, and uncertainty about how to interpret what they mean. Interestingly, the focus is on the secondary characters, the people who make an impact on Nathaniel, not on Nathaniel himself. One of the characters (Olive) comments that the self is unimportant, and the novel sticks to that script. I know this has been a frustrating feature for some readers, but I thought it made sense in the context, and I also appreciated how hard it would be to pull that off with a first person narrator.

If you're more in the mood for a fast-paced book, don't try it - it's more like navigating a slow but beautiful stream. There's a lot more anecdote than event, in line with the jigsaw-puzzle nature of the storytelling.

The second half of the book shows more directly how the past affects the present, particularly the children's relationship with their mother. It's a slow and artistic reveal, told with Ondaatje's typical clarity, sparseness and wit. It made me smile, and it made me cry. Highly recommended.

message 2: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I’m glad it lived up to your expectations based on your previous experience with Ondaatje’s writing Kate. Your enthusiasm has certainly led me to want to read more of his work.

message 3: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments I loved it too. 5 stars for me as well

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Love your review. I'm seeing a lot of positive about this book. I guess that means I need to read it.:) When you say "glorious writing" you hooked me in.

back to top