From the first page, right to the very last, I was woven deep into the natural wonder of the world that only a Master storyteller like David Attenborough can unveil.
Except, these are no tales, no matter how strange, foreign and wonderful the creatures are. They are in fact the little-known truths and facts of a natural world to which only the very few were privy.
But now, thanks to the adept efforts of Attenborough, we are privileged to glimpse into this wildly curious and captivating universe of animals.
We learn how animals mate and why they mate the way they do. We learn how parents raise their young or have others raise their offspring for them. We learn how knowledge is genetically embedded, how much is instinctual and how much is naturally developed. We learn how a species has survived the ever-changing landscape of our climate to thrive, survive, evolve or decimate.
From the worms who reproduce without ever leaving their burrows simply by severing a part of their body, to the kilometres-long carpet of crimson crabs on Christmas Island at migration time, nobody brings the essence of nature to life quite like Attenborough.
Although this is the third and final book in David Attenborough's trilogy "Life", like all his books, your experience is not diminished by reading it out of sequence. His storytelling abilities colour the technical and complex ethology and evolution of animal behaviour beautifully that this book reads with the same breath and depth of emotions as the best novels.
"The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Animal Behaviour" is a wonderfully fascinating, intriguing and engaging read that you won't be able to put down.
A legacy book that should be included in every library and passed down from generation to generation.
Not knowing that this was part of the Daniel Pitt Trilogy, I had read this book (the first in the series) after reading "So Much Life Left Over".
I think there was a reason why the books do not mention they are a part of a series. The stories stand very well on their own legs and you don't feel at a loss at any point. If anything, I would recommend reading it out of sequence as the weight of foretelling carries a beautifully bittersweet poignancy to the stories.
Although the books are about Daniel Pitt, an Ace World War 1 pilot, the story is is not dominated by his narrative. If anything, centerstage is shared with an endearing cast of characters that Louis de Bernières brings to life so believably that you forget you're not living war-torn Europe in the 1920s.
If anything, the narrative is spun around the McCosh family with the 3 sisters, Rosie, Ottillie and Sophie who carries golden woven threads of narrative like those of the March sisters in Little Women. You'll fall in love with their vulnerability, tragedy and courage as they find first themselves, then their place in the world.
What I love most about Louis de Bernières body of work is you come across some of the characters over and over again in different stories and books. Be it a chance conversation on the train to a couple on a cruise, you meet old familiar friends at every turn in a de Bernières story.
The way you wish and hope that those you love are never forgotten.
In "So Much Life Left over", you'll have a passing brush with some of the characters from "Captain Corelli's Mandolin". Maybe it's just me but I get such a thrill when reading a new book and coming across an old familiar name. Like a forgotten friend that orbits into your world again, you can't help but burst into a grin and cry out with a warm, "Hey, it's you!"
I guess, this is what I have come to notice about Louis de Bernière's books and more importantly, his ability to draw out characters that you'll become stupidly fond of.
"So Much Life Left Over" is filled with an incredibly rich and divergent range of characters with contrasting experiences during World War I.
From the fates of young loves pulled apart by war to parents irreparably shattered by their losses, to the quiet acts of courage bearing up the world, the book takes you from the misty hilltops of Ceylon's tea plantations to the grey-muddied bunkers of France.
If you're a fan of historical fiction set in WW1, you'll enjoy how de Bernière captured the tone of the period so marvellously. It feels believable without any pretentiousness, so much so, you don't realise the events occurred 110 years ago.
It's a terrific book that's easy to take on holidays without causing you to bury your nose into it and ignore the entire world around you.
It'll captivate you but won't leave you sobbing in your holiday cabin for days. It's my kind of holiday read.
P/s. It's not as good as Captain Corelli's Mandolin but I think that book was one of those rare literary exceptions.
Pps. I didn't realise until after I had finished the book that this was book 2 of a trilogy. I didn't feel that anything was amiss and the book wasn't advertised as such because the story stood on its legs perfectly well. For those bothered by the sequence of things, this might make a difference but my experience wasn't affected by this at all.