So Much Life Left Over
by Louis De Bernières, Penguin
Glorious poetic slice of life from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author, of the ramifications of post-Great War service for two daughter pilots in the 1920s. Ceylon tea plantation owners Hugh and Daniel are “missing the extremes of experience that made them feel intensely alive during the war”. Hugh’s wife Gloria runs a clinic, where Daniel’s wife Rosie works. Daniel and Rosie’s daughter Esther adores her Uncle Archie who, over from India, enchants her with Kipling-esque animal stories. But when Rosie gives birth to a boy with his “outsides on the insides”, who dies, “…happiness slipped out of the door.” Daniel takes a Tamil lover, then returns, as Rosie desires, to Blighty. His mother-in-law’s gardener “Oily Wragge” sleeps in his wheelbarrow. Captured in Mesopotamia, Oily relives the nightmare never-ending march, naked and starving. Rosie’s father’s last will and testament blows the bedding plants out of the potting shed. So many secrets, so much sadness. So dust yourself off and live the life left over!