I was both excited and reticent to read this. Louis de Bernières is one of my favourite authors. I was entranced by Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and, especially, Birds Without Wings but left disappointed by his last outing, Notwithstanding. This had all the promise of greatness- a family saga set against the backdrop of the build-up to, enactment of, and fall out from the First World War.
I liked it but I did not love it, which is a shame. The plot is good, there are a few unexpected developments as well as lots of, pleasantly, predictable ones and there is a great cast of characters but herein lies my issue. Whilst the book does go off and explore the lives of many characters from different angles (the soldier, the airman, the working class maid, the pretentious and increasingly eccentric/ antagonistic mother, the good hearted father, the bi-sexual sister, the Army chaplain and so on), I found the main character Rosie is very dull as she wrestles with her grief and religiosity. Hers is the story on which the book hangs but thankfully it is not limited to her perspective.