Books by Louis de Bernières

SO MUCH LIFE LEFT OVER by Louis de Bernières
Released: Aug. 7, 2018

"A readable if off-balance slice of history in which breadth comes at the expense of depth."
The destinies of the four McCosh sisters and their childhood friends in the aftermath of World War I form the foundation of a multiperspective saga embracing fidelity and fertility, empire, belief, and parental love. Read full book review >
NOTWITHSTANDING  by Louis de Bernières
Released: Oct. 18, 2016

"Mild and nostalgic, a fictionalized expansion of childhood memories that harks back to seemingly safer, simpler times."
Linked short stories evoking a small British village celebrate—and mourn—middle England as it perhaps was in the central decades of the 20th century. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 4, 2015

"Readable and mildly engaging but lacking fresh insights into very familiar material."
Another historical novel from de Bernières (A Partisan's Daughter, 2008, etc.): the agreeable, albeit predictable saga of an English family transformed by World War I. Read full book review >
A PARTISAN’S DAUGHTER by Louis de Bernières
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

"A malodorous turkey. Corelli's Mandolin it ain't."
The popular British author who seems to alternate ambitious blockbusters (Birds Without Wings, 2005, etc.) with wispy makeweight fictions (e.g., the wafer-thin Red Dog) tests his devoted readership's patience again. Read full book review >
BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS by Louis de Bernières
Released: Aug. 1, 2004

"Enormously readable, intermittently brilliant, honorably conceived and felt—and very deeply flawed."
The popular British author's first since the huge international success of Corelli's Mandolin (1994) is an epic chronicle of the making of modern Turkey. Read full book review >
RED DOG by Louis de Bernières
Released: Sept. 11, 2001

"The thousands of readers who loved Corelli's Mandolin have waited impatiently for its author's next novel, so one understands why this innocuous little non-book was published. But why was it written?"
De Bernières's first book since his immensely popular fourth novel, Corelli's Mandolin (1994), is a slender collection of 15 brief interrelated tales about a legendary mutt (1971-79) who became the beloved honorary "mate" of laborers in the salt- and iron-works of northwestern coastal Australia. Read full book review >
CORELLI'S MANDOLIN by Louis de Bernières
Released: Sept. 20, 1994

A felicitous change of setting to Greece after an epic trilogy set in Latin America (The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman, 1993, etc.) seems to have liberated de Berniäres's particular brand of intelligent satire. Dr. Iannis, a wise-father figure of the sort familiar from de Berniäres's other books, plays choric host to a portrait of life on the island of Cephallonia as Greece is invaded by Italian and German troops during WW II. His brilliant and beautiful daughter, Pelagia, is the story's heroine. Swirling around them are de Berniäres's trademark crowd: earth mother, feral girl-child, village strongman, drunkard priest, politically argumentative old man, inarticulate goatherder, and Mandras, an illiterate fisherman who feeds dolphins. They are joined by the soldiers: Carlo Piero Guercio, a tightly closeted homosexual; Captain Antonio Corelli, his clown of a commanding officer, who is a virtuoso mandolin player; and GÅnter Weber, a German who carries around a gramophone so that everyone can enjoy ``Lili Marlene.'' Beginning with Dr. Iannis removing a 60-year-old pea from the ear of one of the villagers and miraculously restoring his hearing, the narrative features one scene of biting political satire after another, although excerpts from Dr. Iannis's historical writings sometimes slow the pace. De Berniäres has toned down his predilection for magical realism; there is just enough of it here, used in just the right way and at the right time, to enhance the sense of wonder and horror intertwined throughout the book. The horror comes from the immediacy of war, the starvation, illness, and madness it brings with it, and the insidious way it changes the innocent Mandras from haunting merman to haunted, sadistic beast. The wonder comes from moments like Pelagia's spying on young Mandras while he frolics with dolphins and the antics of Corelli, Pelagia's fascist lover. Good, thoughtful reading: a black comedy in the Vonnegut tradition. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 23, 1994

Once again, de Berniäres turns magic realism into a literary Latin American theme park where the familiar attractions— levitating villagers, centuries-old wanderers, protean plants and animals—appear with nothing new or original added. Mythic hero Dionisio Vivo—fighter of druglords in Se§or Viva and the Coca Lord—is now living in the remote Andean village of Cochadebajo. Vivo, the father of 30 children, though he still mourns his beloved, long-dead Anica, is a national columnist—the country's conscience—as well as one of the defenders of the village against the assault by bloodthirsty religious fanatics bent on rooting out heresy. Plot, though, is secondary—it's here only to provide successive set-pieces in which various characters can display their larger-than-life vices, virtues, and talents: ailing Cardinal Guzman is haunted by the demons of his corruptions, torments that are cured only by surgery—his tumor turns out to be an unborn twin—and his decision to leave the church and do good with his longtime mistress and their dead son, Christobal, reborn as a humming bird. Also included: a Mexican musicologist married to twins Lena and Ena; the ghost of Thomas Aquinas, who, appalled by the fanatical priests' sincerity, wishes he'd never written; Professor Luis, whose inventions save the village from destruction; conquistadors in rusting armor; a false priest who levitates and quotes salacious classics; jungle cats that eat strawberries and chocolates; a corrupt, sexually obsessed national-president; an ancient, starving, Quixote-like knight in search of ``the beast'' he must kill. And the grand climax, the battle that defeats the crusading fanatics, is undercut by a frenetic display of ambitious but old-hat literary virtuosity. Faux fiction that fails because—not in spite of—the writer's best efforts. Read full book review >
SEÑOR VIVO AND THE COCA LORD by Louis de Bernières
Released: Aug. 20, 1992

De Berniäres's prefab magic realism, first on display in The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (Feb. 1992), has another strenuous but hardly less ersatz workout in this successor, wherein a crusading philosophy professor turns mythic hero. Dionisio Vivo teaches at a South American university and writes fiery letters to the newspaper about the coca trade's implacable destructiveness. The druglords, and the comic-opera national government, pay no attention until Vivo attracts great public support and becomes something of a cult figure. They ultimately will get to Vivo by destroying his great ladylove, Anica; but since Vivo and everyone else in the book has access to metamorphosis and magic, his revenge is sovereign and unanswerable. As with the earlier book: If you'd never read Garc°a M†rquez, this might be charming; if you have, it merely seems forced. ``At last the time came for them to make the arduous journey to Valledupar, a city so frivolous that the natives hang pineapples on lemon trees just to confuse the tourists, and the same place that General Fuerte's donkey had once given birth to kittens.'' Not only Valledupar—this entire novel. Mechanically transposed and derivative stuff. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 18, 1992

A first novel by a British writer that, somewhat cynically, seems to want to wrap up all things Latin American into one package: myth, politics, comedy, economics, ethnology, geography, you name it. The result is a synoptic mess, filled more with cartoons than with anything else. In an unnamed and representative Andean country, the benevolent nobleman of the title hangs over the book as the kindest, foggiest deity, watching privilege war with poverty, guerrillas with the army, sexual repression with ``natural'' expression. A Navantes Indian girl is killed by a land mine and becomes transfigured into a cat—a cat who ultimately through magical means brings down the corrupt and bankrupt state kept propped up by financial schemes and a renegade army (a torture machine when it isn't being diverted by Falklands-style war fiascos). But de Berniäres, unlike Garc°a M†rquez and Isabel Allende, his too obvious templates, can't get his scene-lets to nugget or cohere in language that sings: the fabric is patchwork, unsinuous. There is encyclopedic, somewhat condescending filler (``machetes are sharpened assiduously on special boulders in the rivers until they are sharp enough both to shave with and chop down trees. They are used to slaughter animals by decapitation, which is very quick and humane...''), as well as political boilerplate (``Campesinos do not become guerrillas for the same reasons as middle-class intellectuals from towns''), but neither helps forge this into a novel. Synthetic and, worse, mostly a bore. Read full book review >