Books·Canadian

Warlight

Two teens are raised in post-war London by a group of eccentrics in Michael Ondaatje's novel.

Michael Ondaatje

From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The English Patient comes a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement.

In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself — shadowed and luminous at once — we read the story of 14-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate — in rather unusual ways — Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings' mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing and excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn't know and understand in that time, and it is this journey — through facts, recollection and imagination — that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time. (From McClelland & Stewart)

Warlight was named one of Barack Obama's favourite books of 2018. It was shortlisted for 2019 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.

From the book

In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. We were living on a street in London called Ruvigny Gardens, and one morning either our mother or our father suggested that after breakfast the family have a talk, and they told us that they would be leaving us and going to Singapore for a year. Not too long, they said, but it would not be a brief trip either. We would of course be well cared for in their absence. I remember our father was sitting on one of those uncomfortable iron garden chairs as he broke the news, while our mother, in a summer dress just behind his shoulder, watched how we responded. After a while she took my sister Rachel's hand and held it against her waist, as if she could give it warmth.


From Warlight by Michael Ondaatje ©2018. Published by McClelland & Stewart.

 

Interviews with Michael Ondaatje

The Canadian literary icon joined Eleanor Wachtel onstage at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal. His new novel, Warlight, is being hailed as a masterpiece. 53:25
Michael Ondaatje on his atmospheric new novel, which is set in London, England, just after the Second World War. 15:51

More about Warlight

Author Janie Change reveals why she keeps reading and re-reading the novel, The English Patient. 0:26
Mystery book panelists P K Rangachari and J D Singh on their summer must-reads in crime fiction. 11:26

Other books by Michael Ondaatje

 

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