1997. I read The English Patient. I didn’t really grasp it and found it slow, long, and boring. I mean, I wasn’t really interested in a World War 2 love story.
2007. I re-read The English Patient. This time, I loved it. The way the author writes is so bewitching and enticing. I fell in love with the characters. I fell in love with the atmosphere and scenes in the book. I just fell in love with the author. I guess I had developed the maturity to understand and grasp the contents. 🙂
2020. I read Warlight (a book I bought two years ago and just got around to reading it.) I wish I had it read the minute I bought. Why did I leave this book aside for so long? In short, Warlight is nothing short of absolute brilliance.
Michael Ondaatje is one author whose writing I wish I could emulate. The words flow so easily, it’s almost as if I am sitting on a boat and the author is guiding me down a river. His masterful use of the English language is captivating and riveting. No wonder he is called one of the best writers of our generations. There is just something about the way he writes (I still can’t put my finger on what it is) that makes me want to read this book all over again.
Warlight refers to most directly to the dimmed lights that guided emergency traffic during wartime blackouts. However, in the novel, it would also apply to the mysterious and haunting tale.
The setting is 1945, post-war London. We have 14-year-old Nathaniel and his younger sister Rachel. Their parents have abandoned them in London and have flown over to Singapore (we find out later why). Looking after the children is a very enigmatic man known as The Moth. The children suspect The Moth to be a criminal, and their assumptions are magnified when they meet and interact with The Moth’s myriad group of friends. This group of friends has a shared history and they seem determined to protect and educate the children.
But the question is: are these people really who they claim to be?
The second part of the book has a grown-up Nathaniel, who has matured in more ways than one. He delves into his past, to make sense of what was really going on with The Moth. With lots of secrets coming out of the shadows, Nathaniel undergoes a personal transformative journey within himself as he confronts his past.
Part historical, part coming-of-age, part suspense, and ultimately very human, Warlight covers all these grounds and some more.
I took three days to finish this book. I wished it could have gone more. But like everything that is good, it comes to an end. Reading Warlight is an experience. It is not merely just another novel. It is being able to experience the 1945 London, the atmosphere, the people, the houses, and the lifestyle. It is to experience through the eyes of the children the uncertainty, the abandonment, the new people, the secrecy and mysteriousness around them, and ultimately coming to the truth later on in life.
I found myself being scared for the children. I experienced their apprehensions and fears. I sensed their fear of dealing with The Moth. I connected with Nathaniel when he attempts to reconnect to his past. I rejoiced with him and his sister at where they end up.
I could go on and on about this book but will just leave it till here. Certainly Warlight is one of my most memorable reads for 2020 so far.