Louis de Bernieres is one of my favourite authors so I was looking forward to reading The Dust That Falls From Dreams when it was published last year. It is a beautiful and captivating book and I was thoroughly immersed in its fascinating world for the entire duration of reading it.
It starts in the Edwardian era before the First World War breaks out (which I have enjoyed reading about before, particularly in The Perfect Summer: dancing into Shadow in 1911 by Juliet Nicolson) with the carefree lives of Rosie and her sisters and the two sets of boys who live next door. They are in and out of each other’s gardens and lives and Rosie falls in love with Ashbridge and they get engaged just before Ashbridge goes off to war.
Rosie is deeply religious and tries to pray her way to preventing the worse from happening, but Ashbridge is killed and the rest of Rosie’s life is shaped by her downright refusal to ever get over it. The book follows her fortunes, and those of her sisters and parents. It is fascinating reading about the lives that she and her sisters lead during the war, nursing the wounded and making their way in the world as opportunities for women start opening up. It is also a fly-on-the-wall examination of marriage, both that of her parents and of Rosie’s, as she grapples with the ghost of Ashbridge and so struggles to see what a good and courageous man her husband is and what he gives to her.
This is a thoroughly beautiful, well-written, interesting and captivating book and a very fresh take on a familiar subject. It’s one I would highly recommend.