Warlight: A Novel
Hardback: Knopf, 2018
[ Amazon ] [ Kindle ] [ Audible ]
Reviewed by Grant Currier
Certain places are identifiable purely through our noses: bath houses with their mixture of captive humidity and spearmint; tearooms, bright with a sun that warms the bergamot pears and Assams densely collecting in water; libraries, rich with the aromatic vanillin coming off the old tomes and the nestled scent of peach hand cream imbedded in the spines. Even the ancient Hebrew tabernacle and temple were identified by their smell, indicating you had entered a sublime place of worship, reverence, holiness. Those familiar with Michael Ondaatje’s writing know its redolence; the identifiable fragrance of his sentences almost sears the skin with its pellucid brilliance. There is, on a sentence to sentence level, almost nothing out of place, each pomegranate intentionally placed on the dividing curtain. Like a thurifer offering the perfectly blended incense, Warlight is no exception. To shift the metaphor, Ondaatje sets us into the censer of his writing, steeps us in the world of memory that, burning, brings out the bouquet of all our crushed spices.