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So Much Life Left Over A sweeping heartbreaking novel following Daniel in his troubled marriage with Rosie as they navigate the unsettled time between the World WarsRosie and Daniel have moved to Ceylon with their little daughter to start a new life at the dawn of the 1920s attempting to put the trauma of the First World War behind them and to rekindle a marriage that gets colder every day However even in the lush plantation hills it is hard for them to escape the ties of home and the yearning for fulfilment that threatens their marriageBack in England Rosie's three sisters are dealing with different challenges in their searches for family purpose and happiness These are precarious times and they find themselves using unconventional means to achieve their desires Around them the world is changing and when Daniel finds himself in Germany he witnesses events taking a dark and forbidding turnBy turns humorous and tragic gripping and touching So Much Life Left Over follows a cast of uniue and captivating characters as they navigate the extraordinary interwar years both in England and abroad

10 thoughts on “So Much Life Left Over

  1. says:

    Louis de Bernieres writes a beautiful emotionally heart tugging often humorous epic look at the lives that survived the horrors and losses of WW1 focusing on the inter war years and the human costs incurred at the beginning of WW2 In what is a relatively short novel a large cast of characters their lives decisions and behaviour are portrayed as times change Half French Captain Daniel Pitt well known ace fighter pilot had never expected to survive the war and has to resolve the uandry of what do with so much life left over The author presents the lives of the families of Daniel who had lost two brothers and his wife Rosie who lost her love Ash in the war as they marry and those with connections to them through these historically turbulent times whilst pondering over the myriad of roads not taken Daniel and Rosie move to Ceylon under British colonial rule running a tea plantation Initially the couple are happy they have a daughter Esther but things begin to disintegrate when Rosie gives birth to a dead son despite going on to have another son Bertie Using religion as an excuse Rosie withdraws from sexual relations with Daniel and refuses to let him have contact with Bertie A frustrated and unhappy Daniel finds himself in a relationship with 'native' girl Samadara whom he grows to love only to have his life shattered by Rosie insisting they return to Britain Full of rage and anger understanding that women are now expected to keep their children in this age he feels he has no choice but to acuiesce to Rosie's demands Through the years Rosie does all that she can to keep the children from Daniel lying and deceiving to ensure this whilst refusing him a divorce that would allow him to marry another woman She has sufficient self awareness of her abhorrent actions but is unable to change course She has three sisters Ottilia who had wasted her life loving Daniel's self destructive brother Archie a lost and haunted man brimming with self hatred finally reaches the point where she is finally able to move on Sophie marries a clergyman but they are a childless couple The bohemian Cristabel settles into a relationship with Gaskell making remarkably unconventional decisions Daniel finds himself loving women but unable to marry given Rosie's intransigence he moves to Germany to see up close the rise of Nazism with Oily Wragge a man tortured and enslaved by the Ottoman Empire in WW1 The onset of WW2 has the characters doing their part in the war effort and inevitably faced with the tragedies that ensue I loved reading this historical novel I was deeply engaged with the narrative and the characters de Bernieres creates and develops However there are flaws for instance in the poor characterisation of Samadara the young woman Daniel loves in Ceylon and in the working class Edward The author is transparently comfortable with writing about white upper and middle class people and it is their lives that are the ones that undeniably matter in the story Nevertheless I did enjoy reading this historical novel with its humour such as the reading of the will of Mr McCosh and the joy to be found in his batty and bonkers royalty obsessed wife Of course there is much tragedy and loss emotionally affecting particularly in the last part of the book After the cliffhanger ending I look forward to reading the final part of this trilogy Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC

  2. says:

    I may well have enjoyed this book had I realised it was book two of a series with the Novel The Dust That Falls from Dreams being the first in the Series by Louis de Bernieres I picked this one up in hard copy and it didn't state that it was part of a series on the jacket or in the premise which seemed a shame I found the book very difficult to get into and could not keep track of the characters until half ways through the novel I was confused by who was who and I didn't find the characters vivid or realistic but this may be down to the fact that I hadn't read the first book in the series and therefore missed crucial insights in to the characters personalities It was only on completion of the novel that I realised it was part of a series and therefore may be the reason I had difficulty connecting with this story The book did slightly redeem itself in the second half although the plot remained uite far fetched and improbable I had a sense of relief on completing the novel and don't think I will miss the characters very much

  3. says:

    A warm hearted saga of two families recovering from World War 1 and catching up with the modernism of the age Daniel is a half Brit half French man who was an aviator in the war and now runs a tea plantation and factory in Ceylon Sri Lanka after independence in 1947 His wife Rosie who met him as a nurse tries to be happy as a mother to their daughter managing the household and promoting better conditions for the poor native workers such as sanitation projects and volunteering at a clinic But ever since giving birth to a stillborn child she has retreated inward to her Anglican faith Daniel is thereby doubly adrift Daniel Pitt and Hugh Bassett suffered from the accident 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 deathThere 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 and above all he hates the feeling that what he is doing is not importantSPOILERISH AHEADDaniel seeks solace in an affair with a Tamil tea worker Samadara which blossoms into mutual love Delightfully told from both sides Even recognizing the affinity with colonial exploitation it’s hard not to root for Daniel to harvest some loving from the oven Meanwhile Rosie soldiers on but despite the birth of another child she can’t abide Ceylon any She precipitates a crisis for Daniel when she insists on moving back to England ostensibly to care for her dying father and be closer to her three sisters Not only does Daniel suffer at the prospect of leaving Samadara but also he finds himself dreading the loss of connection to the place its wild beauty weather food and people And the prospects of initiating a flying venture with Hugh He also feels fulfilled and useful working with the factory machines as an escape from human concerns 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 People were slippery and elusive changeable and moody You thought you understood them and then found out you did not You thought they loved you and then they suddenly turned spiritual or indifferentBACK TO NON SPOILERISHSo that is basically the setup at the beginning Soon we step off into venues first England and immersion in Rosie’s colorful family and then Germany and a business venture ill timed for their poor economy and early growth of the Nazis These interludes seemed a bit diffusing and less coherent than the first part of setting the stage but it was a great opportunity for de Bernieres to treat us to his usual panoply for colorful minor characters For example the lowly family gardener “Oily” Wragge provides us a sardonic perspective on the aristocratic pretensions of Rosie’s parents the McCoshes and vivid reflections on his WW1 experience in the Middle East and sense of relief over surviving a brutal time as a POW at the hands of the Ottoman Turks One of Rosie’s sister is married to a minister who writes novels that feature necromancy communication with the dead and shocks his superior in the church that the Old Testament God “actually is the Devil pretending to be God” Another sister Christobel is attuned to the avante garde of the Bloomsbury circle lives in lesbian relationship and schemes for some way to raise children of her own As part of a trilogy one can see the obvious arc of World War 1 in the first phase “The Dust That Falls from Dreams” at hand for me but unread the interwar period with this and then World War 2 for the finale With that framework one can imagine that some of the apparent diversions here serve to interface the eras as well as to sow seeds for characters who will become important in the volume to come Compared to the drama of the author’s wonderful “Corelli’s Madolin” and “Bird Without Wings” this volume has a satisfying lightness and play about the bounty of life “left over” after our characters experience world events such as war and the waning of good ship Britannia’s empire The humor moves the needle toward his earlier satirical trilogy about a wacky ensemble of characters in South America of which I’ve only enjoyed “The War of Don Emanuel’s Nether Parts” but it is of the charming type and doesn’t go over the top or break into magical realismThis book was provided for review by Penguin Random House through their “First to Read” program

  4. says:

    Daniel was a legendary WWI Flying Ace a survivor of the war now facing an immensity of endless days filled with trivialities As a tea manufacturer in Ceylon he has the company of Hugh who was also a pilot in the war and a bright future in an exotic land Daniel's wife Rosie is pregnant with their second child After the war Daniel's brother Archie went to India He is a risk taker and a drunk in love with Rosie who married Daniel after her fiance died in the war Rosie's sister Otillie in England is in love with Archie but he distrusts anyone who could love him He prefers his hopeless and unreuited love for Rosie He writes to OtillieYou could not have have been my salvation because no one ever will be I am one of the damnedreconciled to my fate here in this most godforsaken and lunatic corner of the EmpireDaniel and Archie also lost two brothers in South Africa 'I used to have three brothers he said fiercely 'and now I only have one Two brothers lost to the Empire Both killed in South Africa My father is dead Archie is the only brother I have left'Rosie's sister Sophie married a clergyman who writes novels; they have been unable to have children And then there is sister Christabel a Bloomsbury Bohemian living with Gaskell two women artists who long for a child Gaskell tells Daniel We are looking for a new way to liveThere must be a better way of doing things They later involve Daniel in their 'new way'The war haunts Daniel and Rosie For the moment they are living on the tea plantation like kings in paradise expecting a second child But happiness is elusive and their marriage is imperiled by tragedy Rosie retreats into religion leaving Daniel to find love elsewhere Daniel dearly loves his children especially his eldest Esther But as the marriage falls apart the children become pawnsTheir generation fought to save civilization Louis de Bernieres writes that returning to civilian life some men became drunks while others turned inward some embraced the new world while others returned to their old life repressing the war into distant memory Each character has been scared and altered by the warMr Wragge was content in his modest paradise After the death marches and the months of tunneling in the mountains with a pick this English garden was indeed a dream of EdenOily Wragge was determined to salvage his sanity out of the purgatorial experience of captivitySo Much Life Left Over was a wonderful read with gorgeous writing and interesting conflicted characters Daniel and Rosie and their families were wonderfully drawn There are moments of humor and scenes of great sorrow Even the minor characters like Rosie's mother Mrs McCosh and Oily Wragge are memorableDaniel and Mr Wragge go to Germany to start a motorcycle business with former POWs Daniel had captured and befriended Daniel witnesses firsthand the rising anti Semitism that fuels the rise of Hitler The dynamics are eerily familiar and disturbing Nearly 100 years later and we seem to be repeating historyThe novel continues the story in The Dust that Falls From Dreams which I had not read and which one does not need to have read to enjoy this book So Much Life Left Over has an open ending with Daniel making a momentous decision I felt I knew what he decides but I am sure there is going to be another volume to continue his story In the meantime I do want to read by de Bernieres who also wrote Corelli's Violin I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

  5. says:

    If you have been embroiled in a war in which you confidently expected to die what were you supposed to do with so much life unexpectedly left over?That's the uestion Louis de Bernières seeks to answer in SO MUCH LIFE LEFT OVER his second novel about the McCosh and Pitt families and their extended circle of friends neighbors servants comrades and others The preceding novel THE DUST THAT FALLS FROM DREAMS followed his large and varied cast of characters during the First World War and the immediate postwar years SO MUCH LIFE LEFT OVER picks up the story and covers most of interwar period and the early years of the Second World WarI like the broad arc of his story and his prose is always witty and readable The narrative bounces around from character to character and also mixes in letters diary entries newspaper clippings etc This is well constructed clever fiction that is often very funny and often deeply moving It's very hard to put these books down once you've startedAlthough his large cast of characters and big historical canvas could be a recipe for trouble I find that he juggles it all nicely The characters all emerge from the page as authentic and de Bernières finds a way to humanize them all with great warmth He clearly has a great fondness for his characters some of whom are based on his own ancestors and we can't help but share that But it's that very warmth and fondness that I think is at the root of what's least successful about the McCoshPitt novelsFor all their charm it sometimes feels as if a certain depth is lacking in the two novels There's a prevailing comic tone that doesn't always fit sort of like Pat Barker's First World War novels crossed with P G Wodehouse Despite the hell of war and its aftermath almost everyone is uirky well intentioned and relentlessly decent There's very little true villainy cruelty or cowardice on display Everyone has a stiff upper lip and by Jove these demonstrably good people just get on with it Their eccentricities excesses and mistakes like Hamilton McCosh's string of mistresses or Mrs McCosh's prejudices and boorish behavior are generally forgiven in a spirit of jolly good humor There's a certain falseness in this fictional world of endlessly good motives where nearly everyone obeys the law is stalwart and brave and tries so hard to do the right thing This depiction of the world diminishes some of the emotional intensity his story might otherwise haveFor lack of a better way of putting it the McCoshPitt novels can be a sort of Downton Abbey experience Both share a similar setting in terms of time and place and both show us a Britain that is dealing with the devastation of war and struggling with the massive social and economic changes of the postwar years With both there's a warmth and familiarity and we can't help caring about the fate of these characters through all their triumphs and tragedies loves and heartbreaks In the end both are just so damn likeable and comfortable But both also can ultimately feel a bit slight and leave us wishing for Of course truly terrible things do happen to the characters in these novels There is darkness and despair and we're shown the evil and ugliness that exists in the world There are harrowing depictions of combat and its aftermath People suffer and die And that's where I think SO MUCH LIFE LEFT OVER may be successful than its predecessor The story get progressively darker and by the end de Bernières doesn't allow the comic relief to overwhelm the sadness He's willing to let us feel it and linger in it Rosie a character who is very sympathetic to us engages in some terrible behavior We see her pain and suffering and understand why she acts as she does but her cruelty isn't minimized or excused This exchange involving a couple in an unlikely adulterous relationship is also illustrativeD When I was younger I had absolutely no idea that it's utterly impossible to live without so much subterfuge so many compromises and secrets and liesC You can perfectly well live a dull life without them but who wants a dull life? When I'm on my deathbed I don't want to be lying there thinking about all the things I never didTheir relationship is complicated and interesting than those we generally saw in the first novel There's an understanding of the profound hurt and damage that can result from even good choices made with the best intentions SO MUCH LIFE LEFT OVER has a moral ambiguity and complexity that the first novel sometimes lackedI'll be back for any future installments that's for sure I assumehope that at least a third novel is planned based on how this one ended As I said these books are charming and just so damn likeableThank you to Pantheon Books for a complimentary copy in exchange for an unbiased review

  6. says:

    This story sneaked up on me and its full impact didn't hit me until the final chapters Throughout the reading of than two thirds of this I was wondering why I was supposed to care about the characters They felt shallow unsympathetic unlikeable somewhat petty living superficial privileged lives But the I read the I began to suspect that this was perhaps the author's intention These people had been intensely involved in WWI and now it's 1920 at the beginning of the book When the Great War ended they seemed to founder and even flounder perhaps with survivor's guilt and not know what to do with so much life left overThe story has as its central figure Daniel Pitt former RAF flying ace and war hero now living an expat life in Ceylon with his wife Rosie a wartime nurse It seems to be an idyllic life on the surface but cracks in its perfection soon become visible Rosie for one isn't a happy person and seems bound and determined to make Daniel unhappy too And Daniel denied Rosie's affection seeks companionship elsewhere and elsewhere and elsewhere as the story progressesThe characters unsympathetic and shallow as I found them all did have their appeal When Daniel and Rosie move back to England at Rosie's insistence we have a comedy of errors and manners densely packed with uirky characters The McCosh family of Rosie and her three sisters and their parents Daniel's troubled brother Archie and their mother friends and significant others and offspring of many the McCosh gardener Oily Wragge just had to mention his name an ex soldier who went through a lot during the war and was one of my favorite charactersThere's much here that is funny absurd and ridiculous especially in the part of the book taking place after the Great War and well into the 1930s a time when the characters are trying to adjust to post war life It's entertaining in a superficial way Then with the introduction of WWII the serious finds its place along with the absurd As a matter of fact there are some poignant sad and touching moments in the last third of the book that affected me viscerally giving me a lump in my throatKudos to author de Bernieres for being able to densely pack a short 275 pages book with so much There is social commentary about British colonization and its impact on a country and its natives about the British class system about marriage about war and its impact on countries and individuals about prejudice and bigotry and antisemitism And huge amounts of historical facts and tidbits about the 1920s and 1930s much of it in a somewhat Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire way for high school students in that you might not be familiar with all the info thrown out there rather incidentally but that's what reference books and Google are for right?The last third of this book with its emotional impact on me saved it from receiving only 3 stars from me This is BTW the second in a planned trilogy The first book THE DUST THAT FALLS FROM DREAMS about these same characters before and during the Great War came out in 2015 The third one obviously still to be released much farther in the future will find them post WWII I imagine The author has me interested enough to read about them a third time whenever that will beOh I almost forgot to mention that a character from CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN perhaps Louis de Bernieres' most popular work gets a cameo here Won't tell you who That's for me to know and for you to find out

  7. says:

    This is a book with a complex storyline and many different characters Upon reading it I didn't realise it's actually a seuel to another book The Dust That Falls From Dreams I don't feel like I missed anything by not having read the previous book but on the other hand I did struggle at the beginning of the book to get the hang of all the characters and who they are because there are so manyThe characters are all members of the same family or connected to the family The main character is Daniel and the book follows him and his extended family through the period between the World Wars Daniel was an flying ace in World War I and he and his wife moved to Ceylon following the war He is blissfully happy there but she is not and the main story throughout the book is the decline of his marriage and how this effects his relationship with his childrenThere were a lot of colourful characters in the book My favourites were Oily Wragge the gardener the very bohemian couple Christabel and Gaskell and Daniel himself although he definitely makes some uestionable decisions he also has a lot of heartache and loss to deal with in the bookThe writing is wonderfully rich and full of life Each character is an individual and their stories are intertwined as those of a family always are The turmoil of the times is evident but life must go on and there are plenty of other factors to concern people at the time just trying to live their normal lives the best they can That comes through in this story which is both joyful and full of sadness I have never read anything by de Bernieres before but he is a very poetic and emotive writer and I really enjoyed this book

  8. says:

    So much book left overWhen authors come to the second volume in a trilogy they sometimes manage a subtly interwoven catch up which is much appreciated by those of us with less than stellar memories Unfortunately this is not the case here But no matter because a desperately sad and really rather gruesome event early on in the book prevented me from going any further Apologies therefore for not being able to provide a substantial review and my thanks to Harvill Secker for the ARC via NetGalley

  9. says:

    After I finished reading The Dust That Falls from Dreams I expressed my hope that Louis de Bernieres would follow it with a seuel as I wasn't ready to let those marvelous characters go Well de Bernieres' latest novel So Much Life Left Over is indeed a seuel and I'm ecstatic It follows the form of its predecessor beautifully; a sumptuous cast of characters well researched and compelling historical back ground exotic locals India Ceylon Kent and short chapters to propel the novel forward at a perfect pace You do not have had to read Dust to thoroughly enjoy this new novel though it will enhance your experienceThis marvelous cast of characters are entertaining interesting endearing and sometimes frustrating but they are ALWAYS veddy veddy British The dialogue between characters delights me to the core and the Brit wit reminds me again why I love de Bernieres and other veddy British writers eg Chris Cleave who's Everyone Brave is Forgiven is another novel to which I long for a seuel Think Noel Coward esue dialogue and eccentric charactersMost of the characters were neighbors who grew up together outside of London and each suffered losses during The Great War Now these friends and siblings have dispersed and having survived death and destruction no longer expecting to die at any minute they have “so much life left over” that they must cope with“So Much Life Left Over” isn’t all wit and fun these characters experience tragedy disappointments bad marriages and heartbreak just like “real life” I felt tears coming just as readily as laughsI’ve taken the liberty of “casting” in my mind some of these characters with British actors here are just a fewDavid Pitt Benedict CumberbatchArchie Pitt James NortonRosie McCosh Pitt Morven ChristieSophie McCosh Fairhead Emily BluntI do think these novels would make for a WONDERFUL TV series The characters are all over the place and the dialogue is already pitch perfect Some examples“Now tell me my boy was it you or your brother who was killed in the war?”And my favorite marriage proposal of all time“Do I take it that you’ve agreed to marry me?”“I’m not racy enough to live in sin”“So is it yes?”“You haven’t asked me properly”“You want me to kneel in a park? In front of all these ducks?”“Yes”I suspect that there will be no seuel to “So Much Life Left Over” because as the story progresses into the 1930s and 40s de Bernieres uite elegantly starts to give us brief glimpses into the characters’ future which serves to bring some closure for the reader If “The Dust that Falls from Dreams” left me slightly unsatisfied “So Much Life Left Over” left me perfectly satisfied AND looking forward to whatever Louis de Bernieres writes next

  10. says:

    Prepare for infatuation and heartbreak In SO MUCH LIFE LEFT OVER the reader holds in her hands an entire world where she will become intimates of the men and women on the pages These characters are both traumatized and cause trauma They make awful decisions from the small and foolish to the epically cataclysmic and yet they are profoundly endearing because of their enormous capacities for love De Bernieres titles each chapter making little stories of them Narrators and points of view change style and structure shift settings and times switch threads left open are later picked up hearts are broken mended and broken again and yet the reader is never left confused or unmoored because of the assured storytelling I was left a sobbing mess by SO MUCH LIFE LEFT OVER If you love stories that consume you and leave you a little broken I highly recommend it This novel will win awards 

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