One of the odder subgenres of English literature is war books by novelists who were born after the war. Three near-contemporaries, Sebastian Faulks, Louis de Bernières and William Boyd, all frequently write fiction inspired by the world wars.
So it is perhaps unsurprising that – in the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the Second World War’s end and in which events to mark the centenary of the First World War continue – each member of this trio has responded with a project that encompasses both of the global bloodbaths: de Bernières’s The Dust That Falls from Dreams, Boyd’s Sweet Caress and, from Faulks, Where My Heart Used to Beat.
T S Eliot, in the second of his Four Quartets, laments ‘twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres’, but it is the years after the two wars, thirty-five of them also largely wasted, that bother Dr Robert Hendricks, narrator of Faulks’s thirteenth novel. Hendricks, a semi-retired psychiatrist, grew up without knowing his father, who died in battle in 1918, and went on