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Warlight : Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 - Michael Ondaatje


Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

Paperback Published: 14th May 2018
ISBN: 9781787330726
Number Of Pages: 304

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Review by Ben Hunter

Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight taps into the same magic you might have experienced while reading Ondaatje’s Booker-winning The English Patient but within a wholly separate landscape. Both books work to pull you deeper and deeper into a world of displacement, longing and wonder.

Warlight begins after VE Day in 1945 in a quiet London neighbourhood where 14-year-old Nathaniel and his 15-year-old sister Rachel have been, without a great deal of fuss, abandoned by their parents and left in the care of a strange man known only as The Moth. This man is a complete enigma, but then again so were Nathaniel’s mother and father. Soon Nathaniel is drawn out of his adolescence and into a criminal world that thrives in the darkness and rubble of post-Blitz England.

It’s a book that unfolds in layers of eloquently rendered uncertainty. Characters turn up unannounced, one after the next, ensuring any semblance of an ordinary youth slips away from Nathaniel. Everyone in this story is important, each contains multitudes, yet every one of them is mysterious.

We rejoin Nathaniel years later as he attempts to reconnect with those who’ve strayed away and put together the pieces of his youth. Walking through her empty house in Suffolk, he finds the mother that he longed for had a far darker and more complex life than was ever imagined. It completes an enthralling and sophisticated drama that will satisfy lovers of intrigue.

Warlight will delight both fans of the hugely successful The English Patient and newcomers to the rich and moving writing of Michael Ondaatje.


A mesmerising new novel from the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The English Patient.

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth.

They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.

About the Author

Michael Ondaatje is the author of several novels, as well as a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. Among his many Canadian and international recognitions, his novel The English Patient won the Booker Prize, and was adapted into a multi-award winning Oscar movie; and Anil’s Ghost won the Giller Prize, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje lives in Toronto.

Industry Reviews

"Warlight sucked me in deeper than any novel I can remember... fiction as rich, as beautiful, as melancholy as life itself." -- Alex Preston * Observer *
"Ondaatje's first novel in seven years mesmerizes from start to finish... A violent event pivots the narrative into thriller territory, simultaneously revealing an intricate puzzle of a love story." -- Hephzibah Anderson * Mail on Sunday *
"Ondaatje's spare and evocative prose perfectly captures the crumbled austerity of post-war London... this is easily his most satisfying and seductive novel in years." -- Richard Strachan * Herald Scotland *
"Compulsively and grippingly readable. In fact I read it first at a gallop, enthralled by the image of a city and a world distorted and all but destroyed by war, and then again slowly, determined to savour the details and extract as much as I could from it. Much remained puzzling on this second reading, but two things are clear: Michael Ondaatje is a marvellous writer, and Warlight is a novel which will continue to play in the reader's imagination." -- Allan Massie * Scotsman *
"Ondaatje [is] such a thrilling writer... I loved [Warlight]." -- Johanna Thomas-Corr * Evening Standard *

I wanted to reread this book as soon as I'd finished it!


Such unusual characters that you grow to delight in, the bizarre lives they were living were absolutely intriguing. Extremely beautifully descriptive writing and true 'story telling', exactly as you would expect from this marvellous author. Loved it, as did most of our book club members. I shall definitely reread it again in the future.

Riverina NSW


On Obama's 2018 recommended read list.


Beautifully written and gives an insight into the lingering effects of war. Not an easy read though and sometimes difficult to keep track of time and place. Those enchanted by Ondaatje's work will not be disappointed.



Michael does it again.


A story of after the war which shows the trauma and havoc on those left behind.




4.7 3


ISBN: 9781787330726
ISBN-10: 1787330729
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 14th May 2018
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 21.5 x 13.6  x 2.7
Weight (kg): 0.33

Michael Ondaatje

About the Author

He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and began teaching at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. In 1970 he settled in Toronto. From 1971 to 1988 he taught English Literature at York University and Glendon College in Toronto.

He and his wife, novelist and academic Linda Spalding, co-edit Brick, A Literary Journal, with Michael Redhill, Michael Helm, and Esta Spalding.

Although he is best known as a novelist, Ondaatje's work also encompasses memoir, poetry, and film.

Ondaatje has, since the 1960s, also been involved with Toronto's influential Coach House Books, supporting the independent small press by working as a poetry editor.

In 1988 Michael Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) and two years later became a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He has two children and is the brother of philanthropist, businessman, and author Christopher Ondaatje.

In 1992 he received the Man Booker Prize for his winning novel adapted into an Academy-Award-winning film, The English Patient.

Visit Michael Ondaatje's Booktopia Author Page

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