The Dust That Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres

It struck me the irony of finishing The Dust that Falls from Dreams prior to 11 November and that is has brought into focus the toll behind the armistice and the moment when the hostilities ceased on the Western Front.

The novel follows the loves and fortunes of the McCost, Pitt and Pendennis families, in particular that of Rosie McCosh and her sisters.  Starting with the coronation of King Edward VII we are introduced to the principal characters and follow their changing lives and outlooks as the novel continues through the reign  of King George V and Word War I.

I will confess to being a real fan of Louis de Bernieres and at times his ability to develop characters is the only thing that kept me going.  Some of the introspection and thoughts expressed made me wonder if de Bernieres was trying to put a 21st Century slant on a 20th Century event.

In saying that, I have a copy of my great-grandparents 1901 and 1904 Leisure Hour annuals and it is amazing how the personal, social and world concerns expressed there have not really changed.  In particular the reader who writes an editorial deploying the lack of young people on public transport and the responsibility of the parent to control them.

This novel has been described as gentle, and that is indeed the way it starts, but the description of the Western Front and the conflicts in India and the Third Anglo-Afghan War leave the reader with no comfortable place to rest their mind.  Thankfully, de Bernieres does not rely on graphic detail, but enough to question what we have not learnt.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed this novel and not sure who I would recommend it to, but am glad that I read it.