With a career spanning over thirty years, Louis de Bernières is the well-established master of historical fiction that makes you both laugh and cry. Perhaps best-known for his fourth novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which went on to sell millions of copies and be adapted for stage and film, de Bernières has won critical acclaim and gained a loyal readership through his incredible backlist of novels, stories and poetry.
In 1993, de Bernières was heralded as one of the '20 Best of Young British Novelists' by Granta magazine. He went on to win the Commonwealth Writer's Prize (Captain Corelli's Mandolin, 1994), was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award (A Partisan's Daughter, 2008) and the Whitbread Novel Award and Commonwealth Writers Prize for Birds WIthout Wings (2004-5).
From series to standalone novels and short story collections, here's our guide to where to start.
The Dust That Falls From Dreams by Louis de Bernières (2015)
'She was beginning to understand that it is not enough to love someone deeply; you also have to learn to love them well'
If you're looking for wartime historical fiction that has it all, look no further than this trilogy, beginning with The Dust That Falls From Dreams.
Rosie McCosh and her sisters are growing up in Kent, with neighbours the Pitt boys on one side and the Pendennis boys on the other. Childhood adventure and innocence are soon shattered by the impending conflict of World War I. With the boys scattered along the Western Front, Rosie is torn between the love of two young men - an infantry soldier and a flying ace.
Can she and her sisters build new lives out of the opportunities and devastations that follow?
So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernières (2018)
'No one is ever only one thing. Inside one person there are so many different people, and quite often they're at war with each other'
In the second book of the trilogy, Daniel Pitt has returned from life as a fighter pilot, with traumatic memories of the Western Front in tow.
He and his wife, Rosie, attempt a new start in Ceylon with their small daughter, but their new life could test their marraige to its limits.
Meanwhile, in England, Rosie's sisters are still searching for family, purpose and happiness, as the world continues to change and another war dawns.
The Autumn of the Ace by Louis de Bernières (2020)
'In 1919 he had wondered what he would do with so much life left over, now there may not be enough'
With two World Wars behind him, Daniel Pitt's remaining conflicts lie much closer to home. His relationships with his wife and son are fractured beyond repair and now he must bury his brother.
From Peshawar to Canada, Daniel embarks on a journey that takes him far from his family and friends back in England. Yet with their own different experiences of war, there may still be hope for Daniel and his son, Bertie, if they can move on from the past.
This coming-of-old-age story illuminates the effect of two World Wars on a generation and the irrepressible spirit and love that can endure through the greatest obstacles.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières (1994)
The unmissable, multi-million-copy bestselling classic, now taught in schools and adapted for film and stage.
It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals but over time he proves himself to be civilised, humorous – and a consummate musician.
When Pelagia, the local doctor's daughter, finds her letters to her fiancé go unanswered, Antonio and Pelagia draw close and the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières (2004)
On the other end of the scale is the epic and acclaimed Birds Without Wings. Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, this novel traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia - a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.
This is a novel about the personal and political costs of war, and about love. Epic in sweep, intoxicating in its sensual detail, it is an enchanting masterpiece.
Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernières (2009)
Dip into some short stories and venture to the village of Notwithstanding, where a lady dresses in plus fours and shoots squirrels, a retired general gives up wearing clothes altogether, a spiritualist lives in a cottage with the ghost of her husband, and people think it quite natural to confide in a spider that lives in a potting shed.
Based on de Bernières' recollections of the village he grew up in, Notwithstanding is a funny and moving depiction of a charming vanished England.
Station Jim by Louis de Bernières, illustrated by Emma Chichester-Clark (2019)
An illustrated story perfect for children and adults, Station Jim is a delightful, giftable winter read. It's the heartwarming tale about a mischievous dog who works on the steam trains.
This little black and tan puppy with its small bright eyes and very waggy rump becomes something of a hero in his town, and even catches the eye of the King himself.
From novels about parenting to making love last, here are some great books to read in your forties.
Louis de Bernières, the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin joins Richard E. Grant in the Penguin Studio to talk about his new novel, The Dust That Falls From Dreams.