October 15

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

In times of war, there is a particular light given off by smouldering buildings, smoke and blacked out streets. It is called warlight. A fitting name for a shadowy book about a man trying to piece together memories of his wartime childhood.

This story starts in 1945 in London. A mother is living a double life as a spy and is forced to leave her two young children in the care of strangers in order to protect them.

With its moody title and cracking first page, I came to the book with open arms and an open mind, but sadly it was mostly downhill from there.  Pardon the pun, but this one was all a bit dim for me.  Forget looking for memories, I just wanted to jump in with a spotlight to find a plot.

This is Michael Ondaatje’s first novel in a while and it has been well promoted and largely well received. After all, we are talking about one of Canada’s most revered authors who also wrote The English Patient amongst many, many, other things.

There is no denying that Ondaatje is a skilled writer and Warlight is full of soulful settings and original characters. I only wish they had a sense of purpose.

To me Warlight was searching for something it didn’t quite find. Lurching from memory to memory, I’m lost just thinking about it.

But that’s just my 2 cents worth.