So Much Life Left Over: Book summary and reviews of So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres

So Much Life Left Over

by Louis de Bernieres

So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres X
So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres
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Book Summary

From the acclaimed author of Corelli's Mandolin: a powerfully evocative and emotional novel, set in the years between the two World Wars, about a closely-knit group of British men and women struggling to cope with the world - and the selves - left to them in the wake of World War I.

They were inseparable childhood friends. Some were lost to the war. The others' lives were unimaginably upended, and now, postwar, 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... what were you supposed to do with so much life unexpectedly left over?"

As the narrative unfolds in brief, dramatic chapters we follow the old friends as their paths re-cross or their ties fray, as they test loyalties and love, face survivor's grief and guilt, adjust in profound and quotidian ways to this newest modern world. And at their center: Daniel (an RAF flying ace) and Rosie (a war-time nurse), their marriage slowly revealed to be built on lies, Daniel finding solace - and, sometimes, family - with other women, Rosie drawing her religion around herself like a carapace. Here too are Rosie's sisters - a "bohemian," a minister's wife, and a spinster; Daniel's despairing brother; Rosie's "increasingly peculiar" mother and her genial, secretive father. And as peace once more gives way to war, we see it begin to reshape, yet again, the lives of these beautifully drawn women and men.

Reading Guide

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"As with superlative World War I literature from Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy to Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong to Louisa Young's My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, the horrors are vividly evoked. De Bernières is adept at describing how lives can be devastated in minutes ... Powerful ... Delightful ... [With] plenty of Dickensian social observation." - The Independent

"The author drops us right in the trenches, and he shies away from no gruesome detail. But he does it with a delicate touch, weaving a gently evocative story of the war that didn't end all wars but did wrench open the door to the modern world . . . What makes this a good war novel, though, is not its depictions of conflict but its reckoning with what comes after." - Time

"A fresh extension of de Bernières' long-standing interest in the timeless conflicts of love and loyalty ... Moving [and] poignant." - The New York Times Book Review

"Had me laughing, cringing, and ultimately feeling a little spark of hope." - Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"A book in which readers will happily immerse themselves." - The Scotsman

"A feast of a novel." - The Times (London)

"It's in no sense an escapist novel, not one that pretends that in the end everything will turn out for the best, and that eventually the good will be rewarded for their endurance and virtue. Nevertheless it is written with such vitality, conveying such a strong sense of the pleasure the author has taken in the act of creation that it is essentially a happy novel, not only because it is well-peopled by comic and eccentric characters, but also because De Bernières extends the generosity of his judgements to even those characters who behave badly and know they are behaving badly, but nevertheless persist in their course." - The Scotsman

"So Much Life Left Over is more character-led than plot-driven, but is all the better for it. Best of all is that the unfinished business and ­unresolved conflict hint at a third act to come in this compelling saga." - The Australian

"Starred Review. 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." - Publishers Weekly

This information about So Much Life Left Over was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Sally

Couldn't put this one down!
If you have ever lived with someone who has survived war this book will have incredible meaning. For those who have not had that experience, the characters in this book will touch you with their own pain and triumphs. I enjoyed the story, the style and the sentiment of this book.

Mary D. (Claremont, CA)

So Much Life Left Over
The title of this book comes from the 'Survivor's Guilt' felt by so many soldiers who survived the Great War (World War I); so very many men had been lost, so many friends, the survivors were not quite sure what to do with 'so much life left over.' For Daniel, a former pilot, it was a life in Ceylon, a place he loved, with a wife Rosie who married Daniel because her intended had died in the war. Their life seems peacable enough until the death of a newborn and then it starts to come unraveled. Around these central characters are assorted brothers and sisters, parents and, on the part of Daniel, other women with whom he seeks comfort when Rosie turns away and subsequently drags him back to England.

Each chapter of the book is told from the perspective of a different character, yet the chapters all follow sequentially. Sometimes, when an author uses this method of writing, the sequence or train of thought may be muddled or confused; not so in this case. Louis de Bernieres is a master at this form. His characters are exceedingly well drawn, people we would be interested in knowing, although we may not like some of them. Daniel finds his own way of out a level of despair, while his brother Archie does not. Rosie does, but she clings to her children and religion and shuts out her husband. The book ends at the eve of World War II and once again, these characters must find a new way to continue, to cope and to grow.

I found this book to be all the things a good book should be: happy and exhilarating, sad and frustrating, with a bit of anger for good measure. It was an 'easy' read but by no means simple. The characters were very engaging and I had a tough time putting it down to do daily tasks; I wanted to find out 'what happens next.' I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a more personal take on what the ravages of war can do to a ground of people in an emotional way, and a view taste of British life between the two world wars.

Virginia P. (Tallahassee, FL)

So Much Life Left Over
Set in the time period between the two world wars in Ceylon and then Europe and Great Britain, this story follows the connected characters as they try to make sense of their lives ----lives they did not expect to live. Written by the author of Corelli's Mandolin, Louis DeBernieres , this is an intriguing story of love, grief and loyalty. A Good read.

Donna Rae S. (Saint Joseph, MI)

What Comes After
I suppose every person has trauma in a lifetime. An honestly traumatic event splits a life's timeline. In this book, a main character speaks later in life on the fall out, blessings and damages, of such an event, and the necessity of cherishing the entirety of one's survival and what comes after. It is a stunning, intriguing narrative, and well worth the time and attention one gives to reading it.

Nancy K. (Perrysburg, OH)

Daniel and Rosie have changed
I really liked this book and it can stand alone even though I just found out that it is a sequel to The Dust That Falls From Dreams.( I intend to read that soon)
Daniel is a returning pilot who served in the First World War for Britain. He is married to Rosie and both must adapt to their new life in the years between World Wars. The author manages to tell their story and many of their friends and family stories using humor and some very sad moments. Book Clubs should love this book as there is much to discuss. I admit it takes awhile to get into the book but stick with it as you will soon not want to stop reading as the characters reveal their true colors.

Susan (Minneapolis)

How to live the life left over after one expected to die
The book follows a man who was a flying ace in World War One, as well as family members and friends, from the end of the "Great War" into the Second World War. For most of them, the fundamental question in their lives is how to live their best life and be true to their moral beliefs. Peopled with complex and interesting characters, the reader feels privileged to get to know them, flaws and all. We sympathize with their losses and are happy when good things happen to them. Well-written and with descriptions of people and settings that give the reader a very good sense of what it was like to live in those places at those times.

...18 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Louis de Bernieres Author Biography

Louis de Bernières works include A Partisan's Daughter, Birds Without Wings, Red Dog, Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World, Corelli's Mandolin (Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best Book, 1995), The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman, Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord (Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best Book, Eurasia Region, 1992), The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best Book, Eurasia Region, 1991), The Dust that Falls from Dreams and So Much Life Left Over He was selected by Granta as one of the twenty Best of Young British Novelists in 1993.

Link to Louis de Bernieres's Website

Name Pronunciation
Louis de Bernieres: LOO-ey duh BAIR-nee-air

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