As my husband likes to say, this is a grown up author who writes grown up books. And this is definitely a grown up book. I don’t say that as a negative, I say it in context of this is not a simple read.
Warlight as a definition is the ambient light that helps guide people during the blackouts during the war. The light, by definition isn’t clear, it isn’t meant to illuminate but to guide. Knowing that, you get a good perspective on how Ondaatje will tell this story.
This is the story of Nathaniel and Rachel, told mostly from Nathaniel’s perspective. The scene is London just after WWII. Their parents leave for Asia for business and leave them in the care of ‘The Moth’ and his cohort of friends.
However, the story isn’t that simple. Things are hidden from the two children and they are aware that things might not be as they seem. Facts and insights are fed to the reader, just like the narrator, like breadcrumbs for us to try and piece together what is happening.
Because Ondaatje is a masterful writer and storyteller, this is a compelling read. He weaves a tale and keeps you engaged the whole time. He builds trust with the reader that you will get to the truth, or some version of what ‘actually’ happens in the end.
His descriptions are beautiful. You feel like you are in London, in the house that Nathanial and Rachel share, on the river Thames looking out at the small towns. You definitely get the feeling of foggy, damp and disorientation. And it is exactly what the story calls for.
This is a very interesting take on war – what people need to do to survive, what is done to keep us safe and what the effects of these things are on the families that are left behind.
This is a well-crafted story told by a masterful writer.
I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.
Full disclosure: I received this eARC from First to Read for a fair and honest review. Thanks to First to Read and Penguin Random House!