Monday 24 September 2018

Warlight - Michael Ondaatje (2018)

Rating: Excellent

The first thing that comes to mind when I consider Warlight is its humanity. Ondaatje authentically portrays how humans can be deeply affected by forces outside of their control. Warlight is one of those novels in which nothing much seems to be happening, and yet it most definitely is. It is testament to Ondaatje's particular way with prose that you come away from reading the novel having been emotionally altered by its contents; the novel is beautifully subtle and yet also deeply moving and powerful. The novel's main protagonist and narrator, Nathaniel, tells the story in hindsight of how his family was affected by WWII and its aftermath, with both his parents leaving him and his sister, Rachel, in the care of such full blooded characters as 'The Darter' and 'The Moth', whilst they embark on mysterious life paths that only become clearer as the novel reaches its denouement. Ondaatje's prose is pared back, yet is full of emotional and psychological depth, and as with all great writers, it appears to be effortless. 

One of my favourite parts of the novel involves another book, called The Roof-Climbers Guide to Trinity by Geoffrey Winthrop Young (1899), which despite coming across as pure invention by Ondaatje, turns out to be a real book! Somehow I don't think it will turn up in one of my bibliographic hunting adventures in opportunity shops or second hand book stores, but then again, you never know. Meanwhile I thoroughly recommend Warlight for those who appreciate novels that completely take you into a world previously hidden to you - warlight indeed.

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