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August 2018: Espionage > [Decathlon] Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (5 Stars)

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Jeremiah Cunningham | 717 comments Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
5 Stars
Decathlon August Read

First of all, this book is not easy to categorize. It is fits into many different categories, such as historical fiction, unreliable narrator, and espionage. And yet, it does not cleanly fit into any of those categories. If I had to describe the novel, I think I would say that is is a human interest story. However, even at that, it is told through the winding path of human recollection. A recollection that comes in bits and spurts and doesn't always tie neatly together.

I have seen many terms used to describe the writing of Ondaatje in Warlight. Terms such as foggy or atmospheric certainly apply and do convey a sense of the writing. While I appreciate those terms, I think the term that most fits my impressions of the book is effervescent. From the very first line of the book there seems to be something bubbling in the story and yet for the most part it is just small bubbles floating to the top.

Although the book never reaches this point, the writing continually feels as though if you gave it a good shake it would explode all over your mind. Each detail is just slightly agitating prior thoughts and details to the point that you are not sure whether or not it is safe to take off the lid. Even today, almost a week after finishing the book I still get a tingling sensation when thinking about the writing.

As for the story line itself, I personally love reading books with unreliable narrators and Ondaatje captures the best of that type of story line in Warlight. While it feels at times as though there is no story line, the real story to me was about self-discovery and just how shifting our sense of self really is.

Finally, I could not help but think that Ondaatje captures the feels of past literary masterpieces with such eloquence. The river scenes in the book were certainly reminiscent of Twain and Huckleberry Finn, the boarding school descriptions and exploits reminded me of the short stories of Hemingway, and the way in which characters interacted and drifted in and out of the story brought to mind feelings experienced in reading The Great Gatsby.


KateNZ | 2666 comments What a gorgeous review. The tingling feeling is so right.


Booknblues | 6853 comments Wonderful review.


Susie | 4488 comments A lovely review JW.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Again, great review. I always love your reviews. Others seem to really enjoy this book. I've added it to my list to read.


Jeremiah Cunningham | 717 comments Thanks for all of the kind words about my review. I have read two Man Booker long list novels this year and I do believe they will both be in my top ten for this year. (The other was The Fishermen, which I read for the Decathlon.) Reading well crafted books makes writing reviews so much more enjoyable.


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