As the world around it marches forward, the bucolic English village of Notwithstanding remains unchanged. It is, as it always has been, a place of pubs and cricket pitches, where local eccentrics–a retired colonel who has eschewed clothes, a spiritualist living with the ghost of her husband, and a dog named Archibald Scott-Moncrieff–almost fit in. In this delightfully evocative collection of stories, in which a young couple falls in and out of love by letter alone, an eleven-year-old boy battles a monstrous fish, and a man of the cloth has a premonition of death, Louis de Berničres conjures up a rural idyll long since forgotten. Funny, bittersweet, and deeply felt, Notwithstanding is the bestselling author of Corelli’s Mandolin at his most enchanting.
The experience of reading this collection is rather like being wrapped in a tartan blanket and handed a nice mug of cocoa.” –The Guardian
“Sketches of lives that settle into the atmosphere of a place and make it unique. . . . The creator of Captain Corelli is fond of an exotic setting and he has found one in his own backyard.” –The Times (London)
“A timely examination of the charming and, at times, heart-wrenchingly sad aspects of English village life. . . . De Berničres’ alchemy is to turn characters who seem destined for farce into nuanced beings.” –Financial Times
“Comic, benignly forgiving and shot through with threads of nostalgic regret. De Berničres has a big heart.” –The Independent
“An amusing collection. . . . [De Berničres] perfectly captures the peculiarities, the quirks, and the tenor of a particular time and place with good humor and great affection. Readers will enjoy being transported to Notwithstanding, where they will be introduced to a variety of colorful characters, whose lives are linked together by an accident of location and an abundance of community spirit. Each individual story is a delightful nugget; the collection as a whole, a delectable feast.” –Booklist
– From the Publisher
Linked short stories evoking a small British village celebrate–and mourn–middle England as it perhaps was in the central decades of the 20th century.De Berničres (The Dust That Falls From Dreams, 2015, etc.), known mainly for his historical novels, notably Corelli’s Mandolin (1994), grew up in a village in the southeast of England and pays tribute here to the bright memories he holds of the natural world, the quirky folk, and the unique trades and dialects of that time and place. The stories, written over almost a decade, are good-humored and indulgent, as apparently is the fictional village of Notwithstanding, where class rules are observed and eccentricity is accepted. “The Girt Pike,” a standout tale that captures the essence of the book, describes stouthearted 11-year-old Robert, who catches a near-mythical fish, thereby shaping his own character and future. In “All My Everlasting Love,” another boy, Peter, in the urgent throes of puberty, fails to connect with his girlfriend but while waiting contemplates “the England that the English used to love, when England was still loved by the English.” Pets feature large in other tales–a cat whose death disrupts a dinner party in “Colonel Barkwell, Troodos and the Fish”; a dog whose peculiar fate brings on a burst of hysteria in “Mrs Griffiths’ Part-Time Job.” Elsewhere there are majors and baronets, a hedging-and-ditching man, a spy, a smelly peasant, repeated mentions of treasured, long-disappeared British cars, and tributes to bits of peerless British equipment, like the Intrepid Prince Regent fishing reel Robert is given for catching the pike. This community of sorts also includes ghosts, like the dead family in “This Beautiful House,” all part of the fond, backward-looking insubstantiality of the book’s world. Mild and nostalgic, a fictionalized expansion of childhood memories that harks back to seemingly safer, simpler times.
– Kirkus Review