I liked Ondaatje’s THE ENGLISH PATIENT, so, while I’ve had it up to here with war stories, I was eager to read this one. It is very different from his first, but not. Different subject matter, same stunning writing that lives the author’s message, rather than simply telling it.
WARLIGHT haunts me. I finished it several days ago, but can still hear the main character’s voice. Yes, hear. Now that summer is here, I’m driving distances and again listening to audiobooks. The narrator of this one was wonderful. I only say that because, while Ondaatje’s writing speaks for itself, the voice pulled me in from the get-go. The book is dark, as is the warlight of which he speaks. But the narrator’s voice, initially that of a fourteen-year-old boy, is endearing.
Warlight, as Ondaatje describes it, is the dark of the English landscape when lights are kept few and low to minimize detection from bombers. The larger meaning, of course, is the war activity (aka resistance) taking place behind the scenes in as near secrecy as possible. At least, that’s my interpretation. I didn’t read it in Amazon reviews. My book group will be discussing this book next January (we pick our books in June for the following year), so I’ll be curious to hear what the others say. Even aside from the meaning of warlight, there are issues of parental abandonment and the effects on children, of morality, of what we choose and do not choose to remember of our childhoods. It’ll be a good discussion.