Warlight

The Week (US) - - 22 - By Michael On­daatje Dwight Gar­ner Anna Mun­dow

(Knopf, $27) Michael On­daatje’s new novel ranks as “his best since The English Pa­tient,” said in The New York Times. But to me, that 1992 Booker Prize win­ner was “moody, murky, and lightly pre­ten­tious,” and here again, On­daatje “writes well about all sorts of things” but overindulges in mis­di­rec­tion, se­crets, and lyri­cism. That said, the story is strong enough to hold us: In 1945 Lon­don, a boy of 14 and his sis­ter are left in the care of two men who might be crim­i­nals, and af­ter the boy learns his mother was work­ing for Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence, it will take him years to un­cover the de­tails of the mis­sion she un­der­took. Warlight is leaner than The English Pa­tient, and its fo­cus is far tighter, said

in The Wash­ing­ton Post. Yes, for the first 100 pages, “all is at­mos­phere and al­lu­sions,” but the mood is mes­mer­iz­ing, and af­ter a sud­den at­tack, and a 12-year leap for­ward, we come to re­al­ize that no de­tail has been ex­tra­ne­ous. “All are relevant; ev­ery­thing fits,” and the ul­ti­mate rev­e­la­tion “strikes with quiet but lethal force.”

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