Review: Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Anna: Read 12/13/18

I have mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed the beginning, which follows siblings Rachel and Nathaniel after their parents mysteriously leave them in the care of a guardian. I love a good coming-of-age story. The beginning is also when the relationship between the characters had the most tension and intrigue.

I then struggled through the second half of the book, which focuses on Nathaniel uncovering his mother Rose’s backstory. This is where I lost interest, as the narrative completely lacked the suspense of the first half. The complete lack of characterization of Rose, coupled with the lack of empathy we feel for her as a reader in the first half when she leaves her children without explanation, made me uninterested in her life and career.

Something that surprised me about this book, and something that I liked, is the fact that it is set in the near-immediate aftermath of World War II. Going into reading this, I had assumed it was set during the war. I enjoy World War II fiction, but feel that this is an important and overlooked time period, especially since none of the characters were soldiers so it featured no war scenes.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if the second half mimicked the dark and atmospheric half of the first. I just didn’t connect with any of the characters, besides Nathaniel. I just couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, feel any connection to their lives. And I particularly disliked the twist about the Darter near the end. The story also left a couple loose ends, which felt like an attempt at depth; however, it just further highlighted how undeveloped the characters felt to me.

VERDICT: 3 out of 5 books

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