Friday, February 4, 2011

Notwithstanding | Louis de Bernieres

This is one of my favourite authors and so I'm not surprised to have loved this, his latest novel. A Frenchman once pointed out to de Bernieres that Britain was the most exotic country in Europe and this sent him off on a journey of recollection. He grew up in what people call an idyllic country village which is in fact a community of eccentric people and landscape. He says in the afterword " On reflection I realised that I had set so many of my novels and stories abroad, because custom had prevented me from seeing how exotic my own country is. Britain really is an immense lunatic asylum. We have a very flexible conception of normality. We are rigid and formal in some ways, but we believe in the right to eccentricity, as long as the eccentricities are large enough. We are not so tolerant of small one. Woe betide you if you hold  your knife incorrectly, but good luck to you if you wear a loincloth and live up a tree".

In this novel each chapter is a story about someone in the village. Other characters from other chapters play a part as does the landscape and the village so as we read we get a feel for this place. Some of the stories are set in the past and some are of families in different eras. well structured and a pleasure to read.
This is an author who observes people, can spin tale and writes beautifully with a vast vocabulary. Well worth reading all his other work.

Notwithstanding: Stories from an English Village
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