A new historical novel from the author of The English Patient. Decades after World War II, Nathaniel Williams reflects on his experiences in 1945, when his parents left him and his sister in the care of a mysterious neighbor.
Warlight has the immediate allure of a dark fairy tale ... Warlight is a mosaic of such fragments, so cunningly assembled that the finished pattern seems as inevitable as it is harmonious. What must happen does happen in this elegiac thriller; we just can’t see it coming ... As the pattern emerges, Ondaatje imperceptibly tightens the narrative. Gradually, we see that no detail or character, however incidental, has been extraneous ... Like its more immediate predecessors—The Cat’s Table, in particular—Ondaatje’s new novel is leaner than The English Patient and its focus tighter, a searchlight’s focus ... In Warlight, all is illuminated, at first dimly then starkly, but always brilliantly.
...a tender coming-of-age story so warmly delivered you almost forget how much of its plot involves smuggling, spycraft and assassins ... The pleasure of spy novels is their suggestion that smarter and savvier figures are protecting our lives. Ondaatje tweaks the notion, considering Nathaniel’s life in the context of spies falling down on the job ... Ondaatje gets to have it both ways: His elegant prose is a pleasure in its own right and a scrim that Nathaniel layers over his own story, protecting himself against how abandoned he’s been. A love of secrets, for better or for worse, is his inheritance.
Warlight is Ondaatje’s most haunting novel after The English Patient, which won the Booker Prize in 1992 ... Warlight might frustrate some readers, with its recursive, looping structure, its gathering of fragments into a significant whole. It will disappoint any readers who want only a second English Patient and aren’t more open to Ondaatje’s extraordinary range of storytelling ... But over time — and this is a novel that should be read in long slow sips — Warlight is mesmerising, and powerfully sad ... This novel dives into the darkness, and finds small miracles among the shattered glass, the ruins.