So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres – Book Review


Published by Random House UK

5 stars


A sweeping, heartbreaking novel following Daniel in his troubled marriage with Rosie as they navigate the unsettled time between the World Wars.

Rosie 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 marriage.

Back 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 turn.

By turns humorous and tragic, gripping and touching, So Much Life Left Over follows a cast of unique and captivating characters as they navigate the extraordinary interwar years both in England and abroad.

This is a truly beautiful book written about humanity during a particularly trying time in human history – all of the characters are exquisitely written and defy all stereotypes and moulds.

This book is set during a timeframe I try to avoid in books and films, I’m not a glutton for punishment and stories set during wars break my heart. This book is set between the two wars and so manages to skip most of the parts that make my eyes leak (most, not all).

The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Daniel and Rosie, the central couple, and those around them. This gives a larger scope of what life was like between the two wars, including some insight into British colonised India (in not too sympathetic a way, thankfully).

My favourite characters had to be Rosie’s sisters – all of them were tough and very, very funny women. They face everything with great humour and energy, refusing to stay idle now they’ve tasted what it’s like to really contribute.

Most of the characters were only just old enough to contribute to the war effort during WW1, so this book follows their adjustment to surviving the war, trying to get their lives on track and then being faced with a second world war. It’s not a depressing book in this respect, people still managed to find happiness during this giant PTSD party of an era and this book really highlights the fact.

This was a very moving read, the writing style fits in perfectly with the time and is a playful mixture of prudishness and candour – everybody was getting up to the same shenanigans they do today, they just came up with wonderful euphemisms for them.
The characters and their stories are very real in this book, so there’s no fairy tale ending given that the book ends as WW2 begins but it’s something truly beautiful.

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