Archive for June 3rd, 2018

Warlight

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

By Michael Ondaatje

The Short Take:

Ondaatje had me at his first line: “”In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” What followed did not disappoint. This story of two abandoned teens, their caretakers, what came later, and what happened before alternately beguiles and shocks.

Why?

Ondaatje is a poet as well a a novelist, so outstanding prose and thoughtful writing are expected. What’s more interesting is the layers he adds and then peels away to reveal (or not reveal) facets of his characters and their actions.

The title refers to the minimal lighting used during WWII in London; only enough to guide vehicles that must travel at night on the roads and Thames as well as mislead Nazi planes looking for bomb sites. That same dim lighting barely illuminates the shadowy activities and motivations of the vanished mother when her son begins to investigate.

Nathaniel, also known as Stitch, provides the first person narration. When his parents leave for Singapore, he and his sister, Rachel, are surrounded by people they’ve barely known or never met. They engage in activities inappropriate for teens — or most people. They are unsure of everything, not unlike all of London, where rubble and bombed buildings are everywhere.

The author lulls you with delightful prose about activities like fly fishing or greyhound racing, then drops a story-telling bomb. The exploration of these activities provides character insights in clever, unobvious ways. Then those shocks make you realize nothing is quite what you thought.

However, this is not a traditional mystery or spy story. This book is not about the destination or a neat solution, it is about the journey. And, the journey is very rich indeed.

A Little Plot:

Nathaniel and Rachel are left in the care of a strange man they call The Moth. Their parents went to Singapore for a year, but the teens soon discover this isn’t true. The what and where of their parents is a mystery — almost as mysterious as The Moth’s friends, who now surround them.

As an adult, Nathaniel strives to solve those mysteries. And, understand why his mother did what she did.

I did not quickly find a website for the author, but for additional information on him and his works, click here.

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