Tag Archives: Louis de Berniere

Notwithstanding – Louis de Berniere

8 Aug

Louis de Bernière’s novels have always been filled with amazing characters like the gorgeous Captain Corelli and the lovely but tragic Philotei (can you tell I’m a fan?). The characters of Notwithstanding are endearing to say the least: the spinster Agatha Feakes and her menagerie of animals, young Robert who keeps a bird hospital and is legendary for catching the village’s biggest pike and the local nuns also make appearances as dangers on the narrow country roads.

Louis de Bernière’s latest book provides idyllic glimpses of rural, English life. Some of the chapters were previously published as short stories, but the same characters pop up throughout the book, making it seem like a novel.  The setting remains the village of Notwithstanding, although the years move backwards and forwards, which adds an interesting dimension to the characters’ lives, knowing some of their families’ history.

The rural life described is eccentric as only England can be, but De Bernière does not forget that country life is not all quaint paradise. He writes about old fashioned hard work and the invasion of townies, the scourge of country life in any land.

Notwithstanding is a funny, heart-warming book that at times can be quite poignant and sad. I grew up in the countryside (admittedly far from idyllic England) and I recognise some of the typical characters of small town life, from Obadiah Oaks, the village’s last peasant, to the infuriating townies, like the man who is desperate to rid his lawn of moles, even though he lives next to the meadow – their natural home.

This is a very different novel from De Bernière’s previous works. He does not make use of magical realism, sticking rather to the reality he knows best, and he remains rooted in his own country rather than Europe or South America. His talent, however, for being able to write in many voices – young, old, male and female – holds true and it is easy to believe that there is some of De Bernière in each of his characters.

If you enjoy an easy read and enjoy reading from different characters’ perspectives, then you will find Notwithstanding a treat (how English!).