Early on in Louis de Bernieres new novel, The Dust that Falls From Dreams, two of the major characters, Rose and Ash, have a chance encounter with a gypsy girl. When they ask the girl to read their futures, the gypsy tells Rose that she will have two and a half children. After she takes one brief look at Ash’s hand she immediately claims she cannot read his future insisting on giving him his money back before hurrying away.
Since the novel opens in the years before the first world war, since Ash and Rose are both English children of the upper classes and since the two have basically been sweethearts their entire lives, any reader with a tenth grade education now knows what the main events of the rest of the book will be about.
But, please. A random gypsy.
After nine previous novels, Mr. de Bernieres should be able to come up with a better way to introduce a little foreshadowing.
Or maybe it’s me. Maybe upper class and upper middle class English people ran into gypsies who really can tell the future all the time. For all I know this was a common feature of Edwardian childhood. At age eighteen I ran into a psychic who owned an upstairs art gallery in San Francisco. When I told him I was majoring in English and that I wanted to be a writer, he told me that I would never be a writer, that I should be a visual artist, and that it would be a miracle if I finished an undergraduate degree in English literature.
While I dabble in visual arts I never became a professional artist nor have I become a professional writer, though I continue to write this blog, but I did go on to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English literature. Maybe the psychic I met just wasn’t a particularly good one while Rose and Ash had the good fortune to meet an excellent one, or maybe this sort of thing is all stuff and nonsense both in real life and in fiction.
I mean, a gypsy fortune teller. Really?
So I probably should have stopped reading right there, but The Dust that Falls from Dreams was an Advanced Review Copy meaning I had a blogger’s duty to read it through to the end. Maybe it would get better.
It did and it didn’t. I did have a few decent evenings reading a basically decent story, one that fans of Downton Abby might enjoy. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of Downton Abby except for the bits with Maggie Smith. If Downton Abby were just about Maggie Smith, I’d be a big, big fan.
The Dust that Falls from Dreams is the story of three families, neighbors, who grow up in the years following Queen Victoria’s death, go to war in some form or another and then deal with putting their lives back together afterwards.
It’s good enough I guess, but I kept feeling that it had been done before and done better. For me, no book on the first world war will ever surpass the Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker. If you want to know what World War I was like, and refuse to read non-fiction for some unknown reason, you should read Pat Barker. You should read Pat Barker even if you don’t want to know about World War I because she’s terrific.
While The Dust that Falls from Dreams was clearly not the book for me, it might be the book for you. If you’d like to read it, please let me know in a comment below. I’ve an Advanced Review Copy which I’ll be happy to send along. If there are multiple people interested I’ll figure out a way to randomly select one. Maybe I can find a way to get Beau to chose the winner the way Dakota used to do. Though Beau is a cat and you know how cat’s can be.
This book counts as book number 12 in the twenty books of summer reading challenge.