So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres

So Much Life Left Over

Louis de Bernieres

This novel follows old friends over the decades after World War I 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 the modern world.

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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.

Advance Galley Reviews

It takes a while to figure out what So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres is about and what it is not. The description speaks about lives upended by World War I, but this book is more about relationships than the war. The cover image depicts Ceylon and India, but the book returns fairly early on Britain. Ultimately, this story is Daniel's, and it is this story that keeps me reading until its ending, which seems poised to ask again the question that the story initially poses. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

I loved "Corelli's Mandolin" by Louis de Bernieres and was excited to read his newest novel, "So Much Life Left Over." My only disappointment is that I somehow missed the prequel, "The Dust that Falls from Dreams," and while I'll definitely read it, too, I wish I'd read it before "So Much Life Left Over." That being said, I really enjoyed this novel and de Bernieres' beautiful prose and didn't realize that this book was a sequel until I read a review once I'd finished. The characters are well-developed, and the author masterfully weaves the stories of his main characters with vivid details of setting. His examination of the universal theme of the impact of adjusting to life after war is insightful and moving. I appreciate the opportunity from Penguin First to Read to read an ARC of this wonderful book.

This book came across as very jumbled and seemed to jump around too much to keep my interest. Thanks for the ARC, First to Read.

I started this book but just couldn’t get into it. I felt the story jumped around too much without much of a thread piecing it together.

This was a beautiful, emotional story, such a great follow-up to the first book!

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 death. …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. …and, above all, he hates the feeling that what he is doing is not important." SPOILERISH AHEAD Daniel 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 anymore. 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 indifferent." BACK TO NON-SPOILERISH So that is basically the setup at the beginning. Soon we step off into more 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 more important in the volume to come. Compared to the drama of the author’s wonderful “Corelli’s Violin” 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 more 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 more of the charming type and doesn’t go over the top or break into magical realism. This book was provided for review by Penguin Random House through their “First to Read” program. Posted to Goodreads:

Unfortunately I could not finish this novel. I churned through the first three chapters and could not get into the characters or the plot. I hope others found it more inspiring a read!

Beautifully written story. An intimate glimpse into the characters lives. The build up to WWII sets the tone for the next installment. Complex and detailed characters make this a complete page turner. Wonderfully crafted, simply brilliant.

So Much Life Left Over Louis de Bernieres Written in the style of memoirs from the early 1900's, this is a story of an British family starting after the end of WWI through the middle of the 1940's. It takes them from a tea plantation in Ceylon to the family estate in England and a motorcycle business in Germany at the start of WWII. It takes them on the journey of facing their lives, loves and crisis'. This was an interesting story, it read in the same manner as early memoirs I have read. Even though it was fiction, they seemed much like real people. Louis de Bernieres has done such a wonderful job creating the time period, I had to check the copyright date to make sure of when it was written.

The concept of the novel is a good one - to track individuals and their connections to each other and to the historical moments between WWI and WWII (and ostensibly to relay some relevant themes from those individuals and their experiences). The execution is poor. Chapters read more like character studies for a workshop than elements of a compelling novel. The parts of the book that deal with Colonial India tend to condescend, particularly when the author attemps to take on the voice of the colonized. It is clear he has a sense of how the Colonial should be presented in a contemporary work of fiction, but that makes his inability to do so effectively all the more uncomfortable. In spite of the flaws, you find yourself engaging with the characters and going along for the ride, though in the end, you may wonder why.

3 things about this book: 1. I found it a bit confusing at the begining since I had no idea it was a sequel. As time goes by it starts being easier to understand who is who and et cetera. 2. I didn't like most of the characters. They stricked me as really selfish and self-centered. 3. It was a little too sad for me. I get that it was the point of the book: Even though the life of these people sounded perfect in the first book (I'm totally guessing), it's not. Wake up, we live in the real world! Well, I guess I prefer living a little out of this world if I can have a happy ending. Even though I enjoyed the book an all way more than I expected...

So Much Life Left Over explores the lives of friends and family members who have survived the battles and sacrifices of WWI. Daniel and Rosie manage a tea plantation in Ceylon and appear to be happy. When Rosie delivers a child who dies moments later she wraps herself in her religion and turns away from Daniel, who finds solace in the arms of a mistress. After the birth of another child Rosie demands that they return to England. Daniel begrudgingly agrees, hoping for a new beginning, but Rosie becomes even more withdrawn from him and tries to keep their children from him. Louis de Bernieres tells his story through brief chapters that alternate between characters. Daniel’s brother Archie finds it hard to cope with life after his service and turns to alcohol. Rosie’s sisters are also coming to terms with a world that is changing around them. Gone are the days when they were looked after with a house full of servants. They must face the death of their father and the revelation of his infidelities and the eccentricities of their mother. As a new war approaches each finds a new purpose to their lives. References to Lindbergh, Valentino and the creation of Winnie the Pooh allow you to imagine England between the wars. Having faced death in the past these are people who will face death once again. It is how they live their lives after surviving that makes this a story that is sometimes infuriating, often evokes sympathy and ultimately one that I would highly recommend. .

Unfortunately I read thirty pages of this book, but could not finish it. The description of the novel truly caught my attention, and even the first few pages which didn't include dialog were decent. However, once the dialog began, I lost total interested. The characters were dull and their voices were stereotypical. A lot of dramatic action occurs well berore the reader is prepared or event invested enough in the characters to feel the true depth of what happened. The scenes with the child were unconvincing and I found Rosie was made to be this stereotypical version of a naive, knowledge-less woman. The prose were strong and well written, but it was not enough to carry the quality of this novel or the story.

I'm sorry but I am unable to finish this book. I really want to like these characters, and care about what is going on in their lives but I am half way through, but I just don't care about them. I kept going this long thinking I would begin to feel something for them but I still feel nothing. To be fair, I did not read the first book, so maybe I shouldn't have requested this one. I do like that each chapter is from another's point of view, it was an interesting way to format the book. I'll not be giving reviews on social media, as it is unfair to the author that his book was not my cup of tea.

I was drawn in by the description of the book and looked forward to it. I'm so sorry, because I feel like I might be missing out on a very good book, but I had to put it down after the graphic description of the baby who was stillborn. Thank you for the chance.

The description was great and I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't even finish it.

This book was not to my taste. I usually enjoy reading about characters living in a post war era, but the story seemed too drawn out, and dry. At times it was a struggle to keep reading. Did I reach the end of the book? I did not.

Louis de Bernieres has a style of writing that I have loved for years and years now - I was so excited to get a chance to read this book. I loved the prose in here, as I always have, but I will say that I found some of the characters to be tiresome at times. There was a chunk in the middle where I felt like I was pushing myself to continue, but I did greatly enjoy it again after I got through that! The characters are all well-written and -rounded, and I love how they all fit together. It's not always immediately clear, but tracing the threads around this community is beautiful and well-worth it. I will always recommend anything by de Bernieres, and this is no exception.

I am having a hard time getting through this book. I’m not sure what exactly is going on. There are so many stories that I hope they somehow come together in the end, but I don’t see that happening. There is a lot of slang in here that I don’t understand. I don’t like books that I constantly have to look up phrases or words. Definitely not my cup of tea (pun intended).

So much life left over tells the story of a group of friends for a period of time that starts after WWI and continues into the early days of WWII. It is the second book in a series. As a reader I was completely lost at times because I haven't read the first book. The character development was lacking but I believe it's because a lot of that was taken care in the first book. The storyline and story development were hard to understand because a big chunk of the character's lives is missing if you've only read the second book. This is not a stand alone novel. However, after reading it I have enough interest in the story and characters to read the first book in the series. I have the desire to understand why they made certain decisions and why they had the problems that seemed to overwhelm them at times. The author did an excellent job of conveying the difficulties of adapting to life after serving in a war but as a reader I now want to know what happened to these people during the war. I would recommend this book but caution other readers to start at the beginning of the series.

"So Much Life Left Over" chronicles the stories of four British sisters and their significant others during the period of time between WWI and WWII. The novel is a sequel to a previous De Bernieres novel although it can be read as a stand alone. I have not read the first novel in the series. I have mixed feelings about the book. It comes across more as vignettes than as a cohesive story. Also, some of the characters are underdeveloped or trope-ish. For example, the marriage of the two central characters falls about early in the novel, but I had very little understanding about why. Perhaps if I'd read the first in the series, I would understand more. Then the wife becomes a classic harridan while the husband is unloved and misunderstood. (Boo to that trope!) Despite the fact that I found that the characters were underdeveloped, I enjoyed the plot. De Bernieres has an excellent ability to convey time and place. Also, there were some parts of the novel that were absolutely hilarious. The use of humor was a pleasant surprise. So overall, I would recommend this book with reservations. 4*/5.

I enjoyed this book, though a little confused in the beginning. Then it all started to follow a pattern and I settled in with the characters, especially Daniel. He is someone that wants to be kind and do right by everyone, but is too accepting of circumstances and others wishes to do what he wants. I enjoy historical fiction and this books spans the time between WWI and WWII with settings in the UK, India and Germany. As a biker I enjoyed the rare addition of motorcycle history. I would recommend this book.

A British novel set during the years following WWI told from various points of view. The central characters are Daniel & Rosie Pitt whose story develops as their marriage falls apart. I enjoyed the writing and some of the plots, but found it difficult to track and become enthused over some of the people's actions. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the A free copy of this book.

Life is precious and limited, defined by the things you do with and in it. So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernières follows the life of a man, and those in his world, over years of transformative events. After having established a life for themselves after the First World War, the people in Daniel Pitt's life find themselves adjusting, either successfully or with notable struggle, to the world as it shifts into something new. As their paths cross in new ways, the friends and family of Daniel's have their loyalties, love, and skills tested as the world and technology moves forward to new horizons - Daniel's marriage disintegrates into something unrecognizable, his brother struggles to find a purpose for his life if he's not fighting battles, and Daniel's sisters-in-law find ways to combat the loneliness of their lives without children. With the interim of peace threatened by impending war, many find this to be a relief as they feel more equipped to deal with war than facing the realities of their lives without it.  Following the progression of time and a world creeping incrementally toward another war from multiple character perspectives, the narrative moved at a glacial pace with dense writing that didn't come to its point until much too late, although the detail of historical elements was evident and captivating. The characters depicted within the story, though well-realized, don't seem willing or able to live their lives with any degree of accomplishing or experiencing anything novel with the unmarred time they have been given; instead, they seem only to seek the familiar of sacrifices for the sake of war and expecting to die at any moment. The issues arising from the complexities of the relationships between the characters could have resonated more profoundly with readers, but the characters felt difficult to connect with, leaving the touching nature of their experiences lacking a certain finesse.  Overall, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

So Much Life Leftover by Louis de Berliners. I struggled with the first 2/3 of this book. I didn’t connect with characters or story. There were moments when I thought it was really going to take off but it didn’t. I can’t say exactly when it all came together for me but basically when the threat of war returned and Daniel began to make something of himself it took on a new life. In the end I could see how the entire story supported the book’s title. I left the book with some questions about Daniel and his relationships with some of the people in his life. Is there another book coming in this series? All in all, I think de Berniers is a brilliant writer although I can understand he might not be for all readers.

I’m afraid this book was not for me. The writing style is very dense and makes it slow work to get to a simple point. I started skimming the book to get to the conversations, but still found it too wordy for what was trying to be conveyed. After reading nearly 3/4 of the book, I gave up on it.

The book was dry and I couldn't get into it. I had high hopes when I read the description but the writing and plot are bland so I didn't finish it.

I didn’t really connect to this book. Maybe because I wasn’t aware that it is the second book for the series. I even tried to read the first book but couldn’t even connect to that one and didn’t feel like I needed to finish it. I wanted to love it since I’m a sucker for world war history but in the end, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

So Much Life Left Over seems a somewhat ironic title for Louis de Bernieres’ book, since it seems like the main characters don’t make much of an attempt to truly live life. This book was pretty blah to me, and I don’t know that reading the first book in the series (which I wasn’t aware of) would improve it. This book is told mostly from the point of view of Daniel, a RAF pilot during WWI, and his life after the Great War. The chapters from alternative perspectives don’t really add much to the book for me. I felt that the main characters in this book, especially Rosie, were hard to like and I felt disappointed that more enjoyable, interesting characters that the story could have been built around came off as mere distractions to the miserable lives of the married couple at the center of book.

At first I didn’t like this book. I felt that reading about the lives of people after a war was boring and ordinary and the acts of some of the characters, especially Daniel, were unnecessary and sometimes ridiculous. What kept me reading was the rich history and vivid imagery which I really loved. As the world entered WW II in the book, the characters and their lives became more compelling which coincided, I think, with everyone’s seeming enjoyment and relief in being in a new war, perhaps what had become so familiar. Just as I was enjoying the book, I slammed into the wall that was the ending. It was very unsatisfying as though the author felt like he had just gone on too long


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