Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is an adult historical fiction novel.
It is 1945 and London and the rest of Europe are still reeling from the war. In it’s aftermath, two children and all but abandoned by their parents and left in the care of a strange man, whom the suspect to be a criminal. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel, thought their parents were going overseas for work, but when they find their mother’s steamer trunk hidden away, they come to understand that much of what they know is a lie.
As Nathaniel and Rachel come to know their enigmatic caretaker and his crew of shadowy compatriots, they become less concerned with their circumstances and embrace the intrigue and the cards they have been dealt.
Thirteen years later, Nathaniel tries to reconcile that mysterious time in his life. He longs to know the truth about his secretive mother and why she abandoned them all those years ago. He wants to know what happened to the crew of misfits who molded him into the man he is today. But more than anything he wants to shine a light on the shadows that still haunt his memory.
Hmmm this one is a hard to review. Mostly because I lost interest about halfway through. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, when Nathaniel was a boy and getting into trouble. I loved his time with the Data and Agnes and his interactions with the other adults constantly coming in and out of his life. But once we jump to his adult life, it wasn’t as interesting to me. It should have been because, like Nathaniel, I wanted to know what was really happened and yet it wasn’t. And because of this, I sort of stopped paying close attention to the story, which could be why the second half got a little confusing for me.
I realize that, as an adult, Nathaniel was searching for facts about his mother’s life. But from what I read, it sounded like he wasn’t getting very far and yet there are these long excerpts from her life. Is Nathaniel making these up to create his own narrative based on what he finds? Did these snip-its of the past really happen and they are only for the readers benefit? I’m leaning toward the former based on his internalizations toward the end, but who knows. And that bugs me.
Yes, there may be more to this story. Could it be a commentary on the secretive nature of this second world war? Maybe. Is it a coming of age story? Somewhat. What is the actual point of the story? I’m not sure. And that is why this story only gets a grudging three stars from me. While parts of it were good, I just didn’t get it. It’s a shame because I loved the narrator of the audio book too.
That’s all for now!