In 1945, just after World War II, fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing?
Twelve years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey through facts, recollection, and imagination that he narrates.
About the Author
Michael Ondaatje is the author of six previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. The English Patient won the Booker Prize in 1992 and the Golden Man Booker in 2018; Anil’s Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.
Post World War II London sets the scene for most of this novel, a strange, sorrowful tale of Nathaniel and his sister under the guardianship of the shadowy Moth and his peculiar friends. Ondaatje’s poetic prose and sensitive rendering of all the unique characters is mesmerizing, and masterful in the narrative of subplots and painful family truths and secrets. Ottawa Public Library, Canada
Michael Ondaatje’s sublime and aptly named novel, his first in seven years, is meticulously crafted. Charlotte Gray (Globe & Mail) says “Every sentence that Ondaatje writes defies gravity with its elegance, yet is weighty with significance”. Engaging, complex characters reside within an intricately structured, poignant narrative where nothing is quite what it seems. This “elegiac thriller is a mosaic of fragments, so cunningly assembled that the finished pattern seems as inevitable as it is harmonious” (Ann Mundow, Washington Post). Saint John Free Public Library, Canada
The author’s deep penetration into obscure yet strong interrelation between past and present in human existence and experience is fascinating. Flawlessly woven many-layers narrative fabric of the novel renders double character of life itself. M. Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature, Russia
In London, just after the war, 14 year old Nathan and his older sister are left behind at boarding school while their parents are posted to Singapore. Their guardian is a strange man they call “The Moth” with whom they are not entirely comfortable. Things become stranger when they discover their mother’s packed trunk in the basement still full of her belongings. If she didn’t join their father, then where is she? The children form a family of sorts with the Moth and his criminal associates as they search for answers about their parents. San Diego Public Library, USA