The Dust That Falls from Dreams is a story about the history of England leading into and out of the First World War and a story about “the Pals”. The Pals are a group of children who grow up together south of London: Daniel and Archie Pitt, Ashbridge; Sidney, and Albert Pendennis; and Sophie, Ottilie, Christabel and Rosie McCosh. The Pals are childhood chums who do everything together until life and war intercede.
Although beautifully written, it is difficult getting into The Dust That Falls from Dreams. Louis de Bernieres has a flowing narrative way of presenting history, but it wasn’t until the end of the third chapter or beginning of the fourth when I began to feel I was reading about characters and not just history. Just as Rosie McCosh’s voice begins to take shape at the end of the third chapter, the narration changes to Ash’s (Ashbridge) point of view and the story shifts. With each succeeding chapter, the point of view shifts pulling the reader back out of the story. The changing points of view make it somewhat difficult developing empathy or fondness for any one character. I was always disappointed when Rosie’s or Ash’s story was interrupted, as they are the two characters that I grew to like best in the novel.
The history of World War I greatly intrigues me. So much occurred in that window of time. Within The Dust That Falls from Dreams, Louis de Bernieres attempts to provide a glimpse into that era. Each of the Pals enters the war in their own way. De Bernieres shows that women sometimes had as difficult a life as the men. However, the novel is almost too sweeping in its scope. De Bernieres does not only focus on The Pals, but also on social situations, household servants, roaming gypsies, nationalities, and the changing of royal crowns. It is a lot to take in through one novel.
The Dust That Falls from Dreams is a heartbreaking novel set during a tragic period in history. There is almost too much foreshadowing within the story from the beginning of the book. Guessing early on what might come as the book progressed, made it difficult to continue reading. As the novel progressed, I did want to know what would happen to Rosie and Ash. It was their stories that kept me reading as I skimmed through much of the other parts of the novel.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Vintage. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.