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So Much Life Left Over by Louis De Bernieres

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Dana Captainino

Most of the story focuses on the period between the two World Wars and concentrates on Daniel, an ace fighter pilot, his life and the characters he interacts with. Everyone has a tale and is striving to find happiness in the best way they can. Lives fragmented yet carelessly interwoven. This is a sequel to de Berniere’s 2015 The Dust that Falls From Dreams but the novel is freestanding and does not lose any of its colour or interest if you have not read this.

At the beginning Daniel goes to live in Ceylon with his wife Rosie and for a while they are very happy. Then a family tragedy changes everything and Rosie insists on returning to England, much against Daniel’s wishes. Back home we are introduced to Daniel and Rosie’s families with all their complexities and relationships. Daniel has connections to them all especially to Rosie’s sister Christabel who is living with a well-known woman artist – Gaskell. Increasingly distraught at being separated from his beloved children these two make a proposal which changes his life. Other characters include Daniel’s drunken brother Archie and Rosie’s other sisters Ottilie and Sophie.

There is even a swift appearance from a much loved character from one of Louis de Bernieres earlier books.

I really enjoyed this and I hope you will too.

Pauline Tibbles

When I read the synopsis, I was looking forward to reading this, being interested in history and Sri Lanka. Sadly, I was extremely disappointed because for 25 chapters you flip from one character to another, which I found to be rather muddled to make any of them particularly memorable. There was just too much dialogue. I felt that there was no real plot and no depth to the characters.

The two main characters, Daniel and Rosie had moved to Ceylon to start a new life, attempting to leave the trauma of WW1 behind them. There was no real description, or imagery of this beautiful island. Yes, it is often referred to as ‘paradise’ in the book, but that is all. I wanted to be transported there to fully understand Daniel’s desperation to remain.

To be fair, this book is a sequel to ‘The Dust that Falls from Dreams’, which if I had read I might have connected with the Pitts etc.

As it stands, I don’t think that I will rush to read the third part of this trilogy, nor can I recommend this book as a ‘must read’ for your next cruise.

Frances Stott

Set after the First World War, this is the second book in a trilogy. It is the story of Daniel, a flying ace from the war and his relationships through the eyes of himself, his wife, three lovers and the various characters associated with his life.

After the war Daniel and his wife Rosie, move to Ceylon where for the early years there they had been happy for the most part, but after the birth of their third child Rosie insists on returning to England. She becomes more remote from Daniel and tries to turn the two surviving children against him.>/p>

The story continues through the 20s and 30s with Daniel working in Germany for a period and witnesses events there that will lead up to the Second World War.

I found the story difficult to follow with the story swapping and changing between the characters so that the characters never really come to life and some of the events seemed rather far fetched.

Amanda Park

The second book in a trilogy, the concluding book not yet having been published, So Much Life Left Over continues the life of Daniel Pitt who was a fighter pilot in the First World War.

Set in the early 1920s, Daniel and his wife Rosie are living in Ceylon under British colonial rule with their young daughter, Esther. Daniel is helping to run a tea plantation. The problem for Daniel is that now in peacetime he misses ‘the extremes of experience that had made [him] feel intensely alive during the Great War’. Daniel, his brother Archie and many other survivors had ‘so much life left over that it was sometimes hard to cope with’. How Daniel, Archie and the rest of the extended Pitt/McCosh family cope during the inter-war years is at the heart of the novel. Moving between Ceylon, England, Scotland and Germany, this is a saga of family relationships in a rapidly changing world.

A cast of characters, each telling the story from their own viewpoint, help to explore themes of loss, personal identity, parenthood and the pursuit of happiness. Interesting historical insights make this a thought-provoking read.

Brenda Mills

Sensitively and informatively written, this novel gives the impression that it is going to be a light, romantic love story. That, however, is far from the truth as it covers the difficult years between the two World Wars and how this affects the lives of the various characters. The protagonist, Daniel, is a much fêted WW1 ace pilot and it follows him through the interwar years as he swings between joyful optimism of his new married life in the paradise-like Ceylon to the depths of despair as this all falls apart. He has to face leaving a place he loves, separation from his children and the loss of loves and loved ones. His life reflects in fact the surges of optimism and then pessimism that did affect those living at that time.

There is a lot for the reader to get their teeth into as situations arise covering lust, infidelity, illegitimacy, lesbianism and religion. The characters are all sympathetically portrayed despite some of their harsh actions. There is humour too, with a spattering of eccentric characters and those that struggle with what life has dealt them and have fallen on hard times.

This novel is a joy to read.

Susan Tudor

I found that the title “So much life left over” give you a flavour of the turmoil in Daniel.

Daniel struggles with life after the war. We start with the family, Daniel, Rosie and Esther in Ceylon soon after the First World War making a fresh start and then trace their relationship as they return to England and to the coming of the Second World War.

Rosie has three sisters who each made very different choices to her. We follow their progress through this troubled time. And there is also the gardener, Oily Wragge, another character we track.

Daniel and Oily live in Germany for several years but then came the rise of Hitler and Kristallnacht and they are forced to leave, riding back to England with a refuge family of four on their motor bikes and side cars.

I enjoyed the way the story is constructed with fifty short chapters, each giving us snap shots of such different people’s lives which are woven in to the story of Daniel and Rosie.

This book was easy to read and I did enjoy it and I will be interested to try another book by Louis de Bernières.

Ronnie Hodgins

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review "So Much Life Left Over".

I enjoyed the book very much. It was full of humour and I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. It was a real insight into the years between the wars; both home and abroad. This is the first Louis De Bernieres novel I have read, but I will be looking out for more. Will he be writing a sequel to this book as I felt there was more to be told.

Bruce Lloyd

Louis de Bernières has a reputation for being able to tell a good story. He combines believable characters, and their struggles, with underlying timeless (philosophical) dilemmas.

The first page of the book introduces Daniel Pitt a World War 1 flying ace who finds it hard to adjust to peacetime: ‘who ‘having been at war, finds peacetime intolerable ...’ and then, on the final page: ‘he thought about how, if you have no faith, there is no meaning in anything unless you put it there yourself’.

In between is the journey of a couple who moved to Ceylon with their daughter in an attempt to start a new life after the traumas of the war. Family, and personal, sagas are evocatively intertwined through the interwar years in Ceylon, England and Europe to reflect the conflict between ties of home, the desire for ‘fulfilment’, and (traditional?) gender challenges.

The structure uses several narrators that reflect different perspectives on the course of events. It is the second in a trilogy (the first: ‘The Dust That Falls from Dreams’) that explores the emotional legacy of World War 1.

A powerful and moving read that has as much to say between the lines as within them.

Matthew Shaw

This book transports the reader to a time of colonial Britain and explores the life of a first world war hero through his relationships with other people as well as including his own thoughts. It brings to life the sights and sounds of colonial Ceylon and the reality of transglobal travel for the era. With a lovely eye for detail, we explore how Daniel engages with transport, whether that is by air travel, car or his preference of the Brough motorbike. It's interesting that women are seen as possessions rather than people throughout this book and the writing brings a real conceptual challenge in this #metoo era. Is it fair to accept the perceptions of Daniel on his wife, his mother, his mother in law or the various women that he sleeps with? And is it right that the author explores women through a male eye so explicitly. I would be keen to read other of his books to see if this is an ongoing trait.

The story brings to life the male struggle of understanding emotions, relationships and sexual urges. It highlights how hard it is for men to talk, but how important it is for us to do so. As the desolation and reality of the second world war hit home, both destroying Daniel's livelihood, world war one friendships and his own family, the story leaves the reader looking forward to what comes next, whilst recognising it is unlikely to bring a happy ending.

Gordon Almond

I have thoroughly enjoyed this book which looks at various characters trying to rebuild their lives after the end of World War One. The story is set in Ceylon, Britain and Germany. The author has done an excellent job of introducing the characters successfully so that one feels they know them intimately. The locations and era are also put across convincingly. It is a story of relationships which are being rebuilt, formed and broken after the horrors of the War. There is romance, tension, horror, humour and history. Travellers and historians will find a lot to interest them. A good read.”

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