Coming of Age in Post WWII London in "Warlight", by Michael Ondaatje - Book Review

I’ve read all but one of Michael Ondaatje’s novels, with varying degrees of enjoyment - ranging from really good to wonderful. Each are unique in subject and in method of unraveling their stories; however, all retain Ondaatje’s style. It’s a style that is hard to describe - at once uncomplicated in prose, yet with depth of character and emotion.  I suppose he is able to say so much with so little.

Ondaatje’s latest release, Warlight, shows such restraint. From the innocence of a child whom we follow into adulthood, we hear from protagonist Nathaniel, unraveling his own life and that of his mother’s. Nathaniel is 15, his sister Rachel is 17 when their parents supposedly depart for Singapore for a year. The opening line lures the reader in with, “In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals”. Nathaniel takes us through his strange adventure of post-war England; of London, a city still dark with destruction from German bombs; of dim lights and persistent fog - all that form the silhouette of warlight.

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"The Nightingale" By Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale is a beautifully written account of WWII France - a broken family, German occupation and survival.  This is my first time reading Kristin Hannah’s work, and I was more than pleased.  From the beginning, it was difficult to put this book down.

The epic opens with this wonderful line - “In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are”.  Sisters Vianne and Isabelle have lived very different lives - one with love and comfort, the other alone and impetuous.  Each gets caught up in their own stories of survival when the Germans march in to occupy France. The book follows these sisters and their different paths in a tale that describes the women’s war, heartbreaking loss and the will to live.

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