The Autumn of the Ace

Written by Louis de Bernières
Review by Margery Hookings

Daniel Pitt served his country as an RAF fighter pilot in the First World War and a spy for the Special Operations Executive in the Second. In the final part of Louis de Bernières’ trilogy, however, his battles are closer to home.

His marriage is broken and his relationship with his son, Bertie, is non-existent. After his brother, Archie, dies a pitiful death, Daniel decides to lay his sibling to rest in Peshawar before heading to Canada, far away from his difficulties back home. But can this flawed hero confront the problems from his past and reconnect with his estranged son? Can he put conflicts aside and accept that, although time passes, it is never too late to do the right thing?

The concluding novel in this trilogy can be read as a standalone but is all the richer if the reader has followed the family saga from its beginning in The Dust That Falls from Dreams. A cast list of characters at the beginning of The Autumn of the Ace is helpful to avoid any confusion, a criticism levelled by some readers of the first two books. De Bernières’s writing does not disappoint, with its vividly drawn characters, powerful switches of points of view, pathos, humour and playful nods to his previous work, including Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the interconnected short stories of Notwithstanding. My favourite scenes were those featuring the eccentricities of Daniel’s occasional lover, Christabel, the painter Gaskell and their pet lion, Puss. This moving novel illuminates the effect two World Wars had on a generation. I didn’t want the story to end. It was a privilege to accompany Daniel on his journey into old age, approaching the novel’s inevitable outcome with a sense of cautious hope that the unresolved strands of his life could come together.