Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
What a beautiful book this is, and how it reminds us how many people go before us, unsung, unremarked, unremembered. A teenaged boy and his slightly older sister find themselves attending separate but proximate boarding schools rather suddenly one year while their parents have taken off for Singapore. The schools are not happy matches and the kids meet up and decide to run away. They return home where a curious bachelor holds fort in their absence. The teens begin a whole new type of education.
The central mysteries in the novel unfold gradually, some we are never privy to. One cannot but thrill to the fascinating similarity between this story and John LeCarré's The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, about an impressionable boy and an incorrigible teacher.
The boy and his sister find their way among an oddball group of scammers and outsiders, none of whom want the wider world to know what they are doing. When the teens find their mother's trunk--the one she packed for Singapore-- hidden in the basement, much confusion and uncertainty ensues.
I listened to the audio, beautifully produced by Penguin Random House and read by Steve West. Audio is a wonderful way to enjoy this title, though truthfully, the Alfred A. Knopf hardcover is small, beautifully printed, and self-sufficient. This is a great choice for summer reading, as it is short, terrifically atmospheric, and full of mystery. The action is not so fast the reader doesn't have time to think while reading.