An English Bookshop

Warlight, Michael Ondaatje

I was impressed by this novel from the opening line, "In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals." One of the men, whose nickname is The Moth, becomes the guardian of two young teenagers in post-war Britain who have been left in his care: Nathaniel, 14, and his older sister Rachel, 16. A group of strange, colorful characters, perhaps former spies, frequently move in and out of their house. Nathaniel, the narrator of the novel, reflects on this period of his life as a 28-year-old man. He is still haunted by the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, secrets, and hazy memories. Warlight, the title, refers to that murky, ambient half-light that was meant to protect the populace during the war by helping to guide people during the blackouts; it may have had a different effect on Nathaniel. The light, by definition, isn't clear; it isn't meant to illuminate, but to guide. Warlight is also a reflection of Nathaniel's somewhat dim memory of secrets that he is struggling to uncover. The writing is so beautiful that I’m sure you will want to read some of the sentences a second or third time.


My daughter Ronit recommends:
The Alice Network, Kate Quinn

What a wonderfully inspiring novel! The Alice Network is a powerful, funny, and breathtaking story of a ring of female spies during World War I and II. The story is told by Charlie St. Clair, a pregnant, unmarried American college student on the verge of being thrown out by her family in 1947. The novel is also told from the perspective of Eve Gardiner, who is unexpectedly recruited to spy on the Germans in 1917 and becomes part of a vast network of secret agents. I was hooked from the first page, hoping and expecting that Charlie and Eve’s lives would intersect and weave together. I was not disappointed. The two women, each suffering loss from different wars, bond together in a storyline that tells of grace and courage under extreme duress, wartime glory, and sacrifice.


David recommends:
Semitism: Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, Jonathan Weisman

When New York Times editor Weisman was attacked on Twitter by a swell of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, he stopped to think about how the Jewish experience changed, especially under the current leadership in the United States. He examines the dissonance between his concept of his Jewish identity with the that of his detractors and supporters. Weisman explores the rise of the alt-right, with its origins in older anti-Semitic organizations and the peculiar archaicism of their grievances, which are concealed in modern language. The author contends that the alt-right's aims are to disseminate hate in an acceptable manner through a political environment that has swiftly become receptive to their views. The book concludes with suggestions about what responsible citizens should do next, including coming to the aid of other groups which are even more marginalized.

Sandra Selects