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Summary

Summary

A POWERFULLY EVOCATIVE AND EMOTIONALLY CHARGED NOVEL FROM THE ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF CORELLI'S MANDOLIN

They were an inseparable tribe of childhood friends. Some were lost to the battles of the First World War, and those who survived have had their lives unimaginably upended. Now, at the dawn of the 1920s, they've scattered: to Ceylon and India, France and Germany, and, inevitably, back to Britain, each of them trying to answer the question that fuels this sweeping novel: If you have been embroiled in a war in which you confidently expected to die, what are you supposed to do with so much life unexpectedly left over? The narrative unfolds in brief, dramatic chapters, and we follow these old friends over the decades as their paths re-cross or their ties fray, as they test loyalties and love, face survivor's grief and guilt, and adjust in profound and quotidian ways to this newest modern world.

At the center are Daniel, an RAF flying ace, and Rosie, a wartime nurse. As their marriage is slowly revealed to be built on lies, Daniel finds solace--and, sometimes, family--with other women, and Rosie draws her religion around herself like a carapace. Here too are Rosie's sisters--a bohemian, a minister's wife, and a spinster, each seeking purpose and happiness in her own unconventional way; Daniel's military brother, unable to find his footing in a peaceful world; and Rosie's "increasingly peculiar" mother and her genial, shockingly secretive father. The tenuous interwar peace begins to shatter, and we watch as war once again reshapes the days and the lives of these beautifully drawn women and men.


Author Notes

Louis de Bernières was born on December 8, 1954, in England to a military family. He spent four months in the British army in his late teens.

When he was nineteen, he spent a year in Colombia where he wrote a short story about a true incident of violence that occurred there. Fifteen years later, while recuperating from a motorcycle accident, de Bernières used that short story as the basis for the first volume of his Latin American Trilogy, The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord, and The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman.

In the 1980s, de Bernières worked as an auto mechanic and then as a supply teacher in London. In 1993 he took a holiday on the Greek island of Cephallonia. That became the setting for Captain Correlli's Mandolin, a novel of war, love, and heroism, which remained on the (London) Times bestseller list for four years. It has sold more than 600,000 copies, has been reprinted in paperback more than thirty times, and has been translated into more than seventeen languages.The book also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book. It was also shortlisted for the 1994 Sunday Express Book of the Year.

De Bernières was named one of Granta's 20 Best British Novelists in 1993, and Author of the Year 1998 by England's Publishing News. He will be give the opening night address at the 2015 Melbourne Writers Festival. His title The Dust that Falls from Dreams made the New Zealand Best Seller List in 2015

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

De Bernières' (Notwithstanding, 2016) latest sweeps across continents as it provides intimate glimpses into the lives of WWI survivors who never expected to have, as the title states provocatively, so much life left over. Searching for meaning and direction after massive destruction and loss, some irrevocably drift, while others grasp for purpose. In Ceylon, war-hero Daniel and his wife, Rosie, halfheartedly attempt to prop up their doomed marriage. While Rosie concentrates on religion and the children, Daniel embarks upon a series of affairs to fill the void left by his emotionally absent wife. As the scene shifts back to London, Rosie's three sisters are forging a series of unusual paths as they brave seriously altered futures. Interweaving their individual stories, de Bernières creates a vivid tapestry of the challenges and frustrations faced by the Lost Generation.--Margaret Flanagan Copyright 2018 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

England between the two world wars is revisited in this witty and heartfelt novel. Daniel Pitt, a former RFC pilot, is married to Rosie McCosh and runs a tea factory in Ceylon. His brother, Archie, a solider on the North-West Frontier (what is present-day Pakistan), is secretly in love with Rosie-just as Rosie's spinster sister, Ottilie, back at home in England, is secretly in love with Archie. Readers also meet Rosie's other sister, Christabel, a bohemian who has a special relationship with Gaskell, a barnstorming artist; Oily Wragge, the gardener on the McCosh family estate, who suffers from nightmares about his war experiences; and various and sundry mistresses of unhappily married Daniel, who bear him several illegitimate children over the years. Through a variety of points of view, de Bernières (Corelli's Mandolin) creates an impressionistic depiction of Britain recovering from one world war and slipping inexorably into another as motion pictures begin to talk, land and air records are set, and Daniel and his friends and family heroically try to adjust to changing times. The novel is light on plot, but the characters are such excellent company that it makes for an irresistible reading experience, especially for fans of Downton Abbey. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Like de Bernières's internationally best-selling Corelli's Mandolin (1994), this beautifully realized new work plows the fertile ground of historical fiction with an examination of love in the aftermath of war. In the two decades after World War II, de Bernières follows a group of young men and women who experienced the trauma of war in very different ways and find themselves struggling to move on with their lives. Some emerge with their hearts still "open to the world," but unfortunately others do not. At the center of the novel is celebrated British flying ace Daniel Pitt, whose war experience made him feel intensely alive. But his wife, Rosie, whom he marries after the war, lost her fiancé in battle and is never able to recover fully. Investigating relationships scarred by a cataclysm beyond an individual's control, de Bernières handles the emotional and psychological complexities of this subject effortlessly. VERDICT An emotionally gripping page-turner; recommended for fans of war novels, historical fiction, and literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 3/12/18.]-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 Gun Snap   The crackle of gunshots bounced between the mountainsides, the percussion fading with each return of echo. Daniel Pitt and Hugh Bassett sat side by side on a small level patch, playing gun snap. They had on the table before them two decks of cards, a box of ammunition and two Mark VI service revolvers. Fifteen yards away was a gibbet with two rows of six tin cans suspended from it on pieces of string.   The idea was to be the first person to put a bullet through every can. Sometimes, for a change, they went down to the valley, threw bottles out into a lake, and sank them with rifles. These were fine ways for two old fighter pilots to pass the last hour of the day as the mist rose up and supper was cooked in the bungalows.   Daniel Pitt and Hugh Bassett suffered from the accidie of not being at war. Even in a land as beautiful and surprising as Ceylon, they missed the extremes of experience that had made them feel intensely alive during the Great War, in spite of its penumbra of death. Neither of them missed the killing, and if they went out after duck or small game, they never returned with more than their families could eat. They had both, many times, seen the way in which the light suddenly goes out of a man's eyes as he passes out of the world, and it was just the same with an animal. There was no longer any triumph in the kill, the guilt was as intense as it had ever been, but still they yearned for the passionate oblivion of the hunt.   There is a kind of man who, having been at war, finds peacetime intolerable, because he cannot develop the civilian's talent for becoming obsessed with irrelevant details and procedures. He hates the delays and haverings, the tedious diplomacy, the terrible lack of energy and discipline, and, above all, he hates the feeling that what he is doing is not important.    If you have struggled for the freedom of France, or have fought to keep Zeppelins out of the skies over London, what else can seem important thereafter?   Daniel and Hugh were fortunate to be involved in the manufacture of tea, because everything in that industry depends upon good timing and good teamwork, and strictly understood hierarchies of responsibility. Daniel loved the huge and beautiful machinery in the factory, and could not resist rolling up his sleeves and helping the Singhalese engineers when it broke down. Machinery was so much easier to deal with than people. There was always a precise set of reasons why a machine may not be working, and there were always completely logical solutions. People were slippery and elusive, changeable and moody. You thought you understood them and then found out that you did not. You thought they loved you, and then they suddenly turned spiteful or indifferent.   Daniel enjoyed the sheer reasonableness of the machinery, but he also enjoyed the brotherhood of mechanics, and he reflected quite often that he had more in common, and more enjoyment, with the engineers than he did with those British people who congregated at the club. He had picked up some Singhalese, in addition to the Tamil of the tea workers, and was finding that the more languages you know, the better you understand your own. He realised that languages divide the world up differently from each other. He was half French, and had often wondered why it was that his French personality was different from his British one. In French he was more emphatic and rhetorical. Somebody had told him once that in Russian there was no word for blue. There was bound to be a word for pushrod, or tappet, though.   It was very fortunate for him that he had the company of Hugh Bassett, who had spent his war flying Sopwith triplanes and Camels over France, in the Royal Naval Air Service. The RNAS had been operating out of airfields alongside the Royal Flying Corps, and they had an inexhaustible amount to talk about, to mull over, to repeat. Both had binged beyond the borders of sanity, knew the same jokes and ribald songs, had overflown the same strip of desolation month after month; fought the same battle to keep flying sickness disorder at bay, to remain optimistic, to perform over and over again the impossible trick of trampling their own fear underfoot every time they sprinted to the cockpit. Daniel wondered if he had ever been truly courageous at all, but had rather been seduced by the wondrous beauty and excitement of flying, consoled by the airman's simple fatalism. If today's the day, then today's the day. Goodbye, world, it was good to know you. All I ask is to die a clean death, one that's not by burning.   But now he and Hugh, and the rest of those who had survived, had so much life left over that it was sometimes hard to cope with. Some became drunks; others fell quiet and imprisoned themselves inside themselves; some foresaw a brave new world and strode out towards it; others returned to what they had been before, and turned the war into the memory of an outrageous dream from which they had at last awoken. Most were as proud of what they had done as they were amazed to be yet alive. Excerpted from So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernières All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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