*Starred Review* The smoke has yet to clear in war-battered 1945 London when Nathaniel, 14, and his sister, Rachel, 16, are left in the care of a man they call the Moth, about whom they know nearly nothing. Nathaniel is certain that the Moth and his curious friends, especially the former boxer known as the Darter, are criminals, and, indeed, he is soon caught up in strange and dangerous undertakings involving barges on the Thames at night and clandestine deliveries. Even Nathaniel's first sexual relationship is illicit, as the young lovers meet in empty houses, thanks to her real-estate agent brother. Evidence slowly accrues suggesting that Nathaniel and Rachel's mother, Rose, may be with British intelligence. Ondaatje's (The Cat's Table, 2011) gorgeous, spellbinding prose is precise and lustrous, witty, and tender. As the painful truth of this fractured family emerges and Rose's riveting story takes center stage, Ondaatje balances major and minor chords, sun and shadow, with masterful grace beautifully concentrated in "warlight," his term for the sparest possible illumination during the city's defensive blackouts. With vivid evocations of place, quiet suspense, exquisite psychological portraiture, and spotlighted historical events—a legendary chess game; horrific, hidden postwar vengeance; and the mass destruction of government archives—Ondaatje's drolly charming, stealthily sorrowful tale casts subtle light on secret skirmishes and wounds sustained as war is slowly forged into peace. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A concerted publicity effort and cross-country author tour will support this stellar novel by a literary giant with a tremendous readership. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.Review by Library Journal Reviews
The multi-award-winning author of The English Patientturns in a new novel both mysterious and dramatic, featuring 14-year-old Nathaniel and older sister Rachel, whose parents leave them in the care of a shadowy and possibly criminal individual called the Moth when they move to Singapore in 1945. The Moth's friends, connected by wartime service, have lots to teach the siblings, who face more confusion when the siblings' mother returns, mum about their father. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.Review by Library Journal Reviews
In 2017, Ondaatje (The English Patient, The Cat's Table) donated his personal archive, complete with his notebooks and correspondence with Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, to the University of Texas, allowing the public a glimpse into his detailed and intricate approach to narrative, language, and anatomy of his novels. Here, Ondaatje weaves writings and newspaper articles into a narrative about the complexity of family history within the long shadow of World War II. Reflecting on the gaps in his own family history and his mother's mysterious disappearance when he was a teen, Nathaniel searches for a way to better understand his mother's idiosyncrasies. Through archival recordings and interviews with the eccentric characters from his childhood, a mosaic slowly emerges that illuminates not only his mother's story but the forgotten lives buried under the history of war. VERDICT Ondaatje's prose encapsulates readers in the dreariness of London and the claustrophobic confines of Nathaniel's experience, explicating the verbosity of silence that lingers in the haunting aftermath of global war. [See Prepub Alert, 11/6/17.]—Joshua Finnell, Colgate Univ., Hamilton, NY Copyright 2018 Library Journal.Review by PW Annex Reviews
The term warlight was used to describe the dimmed lights that guided emergency traffic during London's wartime blackouts. The word aptly describes the atmosphere of this haunting, brilliant novel from Ondaatje (The Cat's Table), set in Britain in the decades after WWII, in which many significant facts are purposely shrouded in the semidarkness of history. The narrator, Nathaniel Williams, looks back at the year 1945, when he was 14 and "our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals." Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel, are stunned to discover that their mother's purported reason for leaving them was false. Her betrayal destroys their innocence; they learn to accept that "nothing was safe anymore." To the siblings' surprise, however, their designated guardian, their upstairs lodger, whom they call the Moth, turns out to be a kind and protective mentor. His friend, a former boxer nicknamed the Pimlico Darter, is also a kindly guide, albeit one engaged in illegal enterprises in which he enlists Nathaniel's help. The story reads like a nontraditional and fascinating coming-of-age saga until a violent event occurs midway through; the resulting shocking revelations open the novel's second half to more surprises. The central irony is Nathaniel's eventual realization that his mother's heroic acts of patriotism during and after the war left lasting repercussions that fractured their family. Mesmerizing from the first sentence, rife with poignant insights and satisfying subplots, this novel about secrets and loss may be Ondaatje's best work yet. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (May) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.
Years after growing up in the care of a group of mysterious protectors who served in unspecified ways during World War II, a young man endeavors to piece together the truth about his parents and the unconventional education he received. By the award-winning author of The English Patient.Review by Publisher Summary 2
Decades after World War II, Nathaniel Williams reflects on his experiences in 1945, when his parents left him and his sister in the care of a mysterious neighbor.Review by Publisher Summary 3
NATIONAL BEST SELLERFrom 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 read the story of fourteen-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.