Light Over Liskeard by Louis de Bernières

The Last Louis de Bernières novel I read was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and that was a long time ago and I haven’t read anything else of his since. I am, therefore, not entirely sure what made me pick up Light over Liskeard, something to do with its known setting or the 1950s look of the front cover possibly. A closer look at the front cover will, however, reveal drones flying in the sky so that juxtaposition of tradition mixed in with the present or future in this case, is still present in his books.

The heart of the story, which really appeals to me, is that a tech giant, giant because of his massive intelligence in the field of crypto in general, sees the future when all the bots either take over and destruct or an individual destructs the global linked world where we are all networked and nobody works unless they want to. In order to prepare for this, he buys a farm just outside of Liskeard and does it up to be an off-grid home where he lives with his children. This immediately brings to mind those very wealthy people buying up land in New Zealand and building in preparation for the end of the world as we know it.

The book is an argument for us all getting outside, working, developing skills for making and for engaging with the natural world. In doing so Arthur turns from a flabby, pasty and slightly unkempt man who struggles to walk up a hill to one who is tanned, muscular and able to make his own ammunition. His children start to move away from their devices and engage more with the outside and everyone becomes happier. Woven in with this is the love story between Arthur and his neighbour’s daughter and his own daughter, Morgan, and a traveller who has stayed on his land, Fergus.

What makes this book a de Bernières book is the involvement of mystic women, ghosts, God and myths all intertwined with the dystopian future that the characters are living in. I also don’t really understand which of the groups de Bernières thinks is making the best job of looking to the future and who to rely upon. Arthur and his little group of off-gridders have many of their tech adaptations destroyed in a sub-arctic wind that blew across the land for a week and so many of his preparations didn’t work. Maranatha, who was waiting for God, died in the same storm out in his tent near a tor. The travellers were trapped in their filth and poverty and those who continued to live in the towns and cities were hungry and nothing worked. So who survives? None of us?

De Bernières also takes a shot at those he calls ‘eco-fascists’ who rewild by adding in wildlife that has become extinct so we meet an auroch and big cats, although some would say those have always existed on Bodmin Moor, and the elimination of those that are not native. This is an age-old discussion not just in the world of animals but also plants.

. . . every week I seem to get a directive about exterminating non-native species. They wanted us to exterminate the pheasants and the rabbits and the red-legged partridges because they are not native. Only been here since the Romans, brother. . . .

Q cast his eyes downwards and sighed. ‘So we’ve turned the countryside into an enormous zoo, and the country people have fled to the towns because they’re frightened of living in one.


I understood the quantum physics elements far less but that didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book. It felt like quite a frivolous book, many elements were quite farcical. People dressed from any age in history because they were free to do so, so we had Arthur in his toga and sandals at the start, Percy in his Napoleonic jacket and breeches and Penelope in her Jane Austen A line dress, none of which is suitable for working on the land or living off-grid. For that military-style clothing is most appropriate apparently. There is also the sexbot revelations and what you call someone addicted to sexbots. Is it a philia or a mania? Hoarding also comes in for a bit of stick and it does really depend on what you are hoarding. Some things are more acceptable than others.

I really enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting, interspersed with a bit of food. The element in the book that did endure was love, caring for those you love and letting your children make their own way in love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *