Warlight describes the time following World War II through the eyes of Nathaniel, a man trying to figure out his life and reflecting back on his time as a fourteen year old boy. He and his younger sister, Rachel, had been abandoned by their parents at this critical point in their development. They believed that their parents had to travelled to Singapore for their father’s job but later discovered their mother’s trunk, neatly packed, still in their basement sparking a mystery to solve.
They are left in their family home, in the care of a mysterious man that they called The Moth. They meet an odd collection unique individuals who watch over them to keep them safe while they struggle to understand their circumstances. Nathaniel learned a lot working a few odd jobs including working in a hotel and later helping to smuggle greyhounds with a shady character he called The Darter.
As an adult, Nathaniel reflects on his childhood experiences as he grieves his mother’s death and tries to understand her life. His experiences lead him to a job with the British Intelligence where he pieces together bits of his mother’s life as a spy.
The Warlight is a slow read, a masterpiece of words which untwines as Nathaniel ages. It almost needs a second read to really understand and piece the story together. The book is a one of a kind story which takes place after the war (refreshing since there are so many books set during WWII). I am disappointed that I was unable to meet Michael Ondaatje when Warlight was released but getting into Toronto on a weeknight is never easy and I am hoping there will be future opportunities.
Reading this book makes me want to revisit The English Patient which I read many years ago!