Have you ever tried to clearly remember your childhood friends and the distinct individuals you saw day-to-day? People who would come and go for reasons that were beyond your understanding? In childhood, the people surrounding us are often painted as caricatures in our mind and it is only later in life that we start to think of them as real people and not puppet moving on a stage around us. Then, we often just remember fleeting stories and moments that stand the test of time and affect us deep into adulthood.
The fog of war drifts in and out during “Warlight”, a masterful piece of almost historical fiction. Lose yourself in dreamy landscapes, darkness, smuggling, mystery and danger that always follows but rarely reveals itself in post-WWII London.
Nathaniel and his sister Rachel find themselves parentless and lost to the traditional world. Their mother packs a trunk to leave for some unknown destination. Mother seems to be there and yet gone, somewhere, with fleeting moving and returning but always at the peripheral. Nathaniel's world is filled with nicknames, "The Moth" and "The Darter." He moves over strange roads and waterways, surrounded by darkness and greyhounds and wondering about his mother's whereabouts. He is guided by criminally interesting individuals instead of parents as he grows.
Everything is cast in dream-like "Warlight" that illuminates sharply but leaves long sections of shadow for every article that has light cast upon it. The beautiful prose and compelling vignettes make Nathaniel’s life as a child, and then as a young man, discovering the truth of his past hard to put down and difficult to stop pondering. Michael Ondaatje shows why he is a master of the literary fiction craft in this beautiful novel.