January 22

The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres

I still remember reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the way it swept my young and sentimental heart away. Poor Louis de Bernieres must feel under so much pressure to match it and people like me are probably not helping.

Lucky for him, he is a beautiful storyteller, detailed researcher and a lot of people will adore this book.

The Dust that Falls from Dreams tells the story of a middle class family with four daughters before, during and after WWI. The family lives in a perfect, tree-lined street in country England with two families of boys on either side. The nine children, who call themselves “the Pals” get swept up in the war and their lives are changed forever.

I like the way this story unfolds and how one boy’s death sets in chain a series of events for the family. I also liked all the history; think Biggles with a love interest.

As much as I enjoyed (guiltily) the read and swept through it like a German air raid, I just wish de Bernieres could have restrained himself more, narrowed his focus and not felt the need to wrap up so much in one story. The loss of an Era, the excitement and horror of war, social change in terms of the role of women and marriage, politics, money and more. The interpretation of religion and the afterlife also gets a good look at. Equally, there isn’t a single character that isn’t conflicted in some way.

The upside of all that is that de Bernieres has lots of material to work with for the other two books that will ultimately form a trilogy. The downside is that The Dust that Falls from Dreams is hard to take seriously as a classic (ie like Captain Corelli – sorry).

And that’s just my 2 cents worth.