Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Warlight", a novel by Michael Ondaatje

The book jacket cover refers to "this magnificent novel".  It may be.

The story begins in 1945 in immediate post war London.  Two teenagers are left by their parents whose jobs are unclear, left with eccentric and enigmatic friends of their parents who stay with them in their family home.  This is firmly set in a historical time frame and the history is real and well told, interesting in fact.  Yet the fiction itself is from whole cloth, fascinating from the start.  This is a non-linear novel that moves between time periods, multiple characters, and ongoing events, with a fluidity that works.  Ondaatje assumes that the reader will catch on and not need hand holding at every turn, although occasional repetitions do provide guideposts.  Personally, this is what I want to find in a book and so few novels are like that these days, a type of book that is compelling.

It varies from first person to third person, and that is always completely clear without any effort from the reader.  Ondaatje writes well.  His language is appealing, sometimes a bit playful, in this subtle tale of mysteries that unfold continuously.  As is usual when writing about books read, a few quotes follow.  They reveal little, but for what it's worth...

--- "Our guardian had no interest in cooking... He preferred he said 'a hasty life'."

---"Only the recent memories, with no one now to share them with, had begun to evaporate."

---"I always sit at the back, especially any show where a relative or a magician is involved."

---"She has not lived such a life, of families and community, for a very long time.  She has accepted a world of secretiveness, where there is a different power, where there is not generosity."

---"They have lunched at La Coupole long into the afternoon, watching each other swallow oysters, drink champagne from slender flutes, until they finish with a crepe they share. When she reaches for a fork, he sees the scar above her wrist."

---"Who made me move from just an interest in characters to what they do to others?  But above all, most of all, how much damage did I do?"

---"The familiar false modesty of the English, which included absurd secrecy...  It had concealed in some ways the most remarkable theatrical performance of any European nation. Along with undercover agents, who included great-aunts, semi-competent novelists, a society couturier who'd been a spy..."

Confused.  Read this book.


Post a Comment

<< Home