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Warlight

A Novel
Narrated by: Steve West
Length: 8 hrs and 36 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
3.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Summary

From the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of The English Patient: a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement.

In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself - shadowed and luminous at once - we follow the story of 14-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel.

In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel.

But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings' mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn't know and understand in that time, and it is this journey - through facts, recollection, and imagination - that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.

©2018 Michael Ondaatje (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"London-born narrator Steve West effortlessly mixes tones of mystery, uncertain memory, sophistication, and innocence in Ondaatje's latest novel.... A wholly original listening experience." (AudioFile)

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  • Kelly
  • 28-07-18

It both entertains and teaches.

I wavered between 4 and 5 stars for this beautifully crafted novel. It is my second read of an Ondaatje book, having read The English Patient a few months ago. I like this one much more. Ondaatje wove together a story with so many elements and characters and it was easy to follow because all of it captured me and held me hostage. I stayed up until 4 am to finish listening. His writing is marvelous. Rich and textured.

There are many wonderful reviews covering themes, but I want to focus on one thing that really made me think. As another reviewer said, the book has an interesting discussion of the fluidity of borders. This element of the story was riveting. Fascinating. I learned so much about the limitations of my own childhood education. I was a child of the 1960s and 1970s, raised in the midwest of the United States. I was a child of working class, blue collar parents. I never met a person who wasn't American (and mostly white, western European Americans with no connection to their country of heritage). I never had a teacher who was an immigrant or the child of immigrants. I never met a person with a foreign accent. And when I learned anything about other continents. I saw a map with the borders of the day. Nobody even mentioned that those borders had ever been disputed. Nobody ever discussed the fact that WW2 drastically changed the look of the European map. It wasn't until I was a young adult in the USAF and traveling a great deal that I started to learn how variable borders can be, but even then it was discussed with prejudice. If a border was in dispute there was a right side and a wrong side. And the right side was always the one we were protecting. It was an ethnocentric world. This book examined the notion of borders so well because it showed the reader much of the post-WW2 political game that was played within Europe and its approach to the topic was intriguing and thought-provoking without being judgmental.

41 of 41 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda
  • 03-06-18

BRILLIANT

I am always awed by the prose of Mr Odaatje. This book is an incredible example of his writing style, and perfectly narrated by Steve West. The story is an unwinding tale of wonderful intriguing character connections, with post World War ll as a backdrop. Part mystery, part romance, and an overall seeking of connection. A MUST READ!

31 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • R. Hughes
  • 10-06-18

Instant favorite

I loved every single thing about this book. The gorgeous prose. The people inhabiting the story. The pitch perfect narration. I kept slowing down and listening to chapters over just to extend the book and savor every morsel one more time. Perfection.

36 of 37 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert and Janet Dye
  • 16-06-18

I loved this book and Steve West's reading

I was probably only an hour into listening to this book before I decided I had to _read_ it, too, so I bought the hardback. Some of the passages were so beautiful I had to savor the words at my own pace. Listening through the middle section, just before the transition to the second half, I did begin to wonder whether the beautiful, but slowing story would pick up. But the events and revelations at the mid-point hit me like a lightning strike and I was riveted from there to the very end. Don't give up. You will be rewarded. I'm going back to listen to that section which I now realize was so important. The world of post-WW2 London (and Europe) is a fascinating era and reading this book sent me to the library for more. Steve West is a wonderful reader and I look forward to hearing him again.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • alydf7
  • 06-08-18

Excellent - heartbreaking

Slow in parts but the unsaid or unwritten parts of the story are as important as the ‘ink’; giving texturized emotion to the characters and the times- quite wonderful.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Bellini
  • 16-07-18

Magnificent

Complicated, beautifully written, and engaging. The narration was excellent. I want to listen to it again.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • lniles
  • 07-06-18

Interesting but not engaging

The story was interesting but it never quite pulled me in or became exciting. This was partly due to the organization — the timeline jumps around a bit which was sometimes difficult to follow in an audio book — but I think mostly due to the narration style. The narrator‘s voice is well-modulated and easy to listen to, but conveys all the excitement of a commentator for a televised golf tournament. The voice doesn’t communicate anything of the emotions of the characters or of an observer, nor does it tell the listener anything about what’s important and what’s not. That said, the story did have me curious enough to finish the book even though I was aware of the limitations well before the halfway point.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Steigemaedli
  • 01-06-18

Engrossing look back

The past. The present. The players and, in part the real selves of silent hero’s and victims of a part of the secret world of WWII, and yet something entirely “other.”
I have heard nothing like it before. Highly recommended.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 13-01-19

Masterful Memory Art Piece

Ondaatje is a master craftsman in memory art. Listening to this novel was for me much like standing, mouth agape, in awe, of a master painter's gallery exhibit, art so elegant in its realism and impressions, on canvas, collages, in stills of photos, all in different shapes and sizes, and in shades of warlight (the term used for the sparest possible illumination during London's defensive blackouts).

With writing so deep in detail and emotional complexity, the novel evokes a war-battered London of 1945, a mother and son, spies, blooming love, loss, secrets and, ultimately, the pursuit of answers and the discovery of self-revelations. To read Warlight is heartrending for, among other things, its inimitable demonstration of how a child is damaged severely once and again from abandonment by his parents, first the pain and loss and feeling of unworthiness caused by the loss and then a lifetime of lost chances at love and commitment due to the walls he erects against attachment and emotions to safeguard his fears of further abandonment.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Cheryl
  • 11-07-18

Not ideal for an audiobook

I suspect that this book would be fine reading it normally, but as an audiobook, it's incredibly difficult to engage with the story and want to keep listening. The narrator does a very good job, but the nature of the prose is working heavily against him.

18 of 21 people found this review helpful