Book Reviews

The Light Years (Cazalet Chronicles) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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List Price: £8.99


Paperback: 432 Pages.

Published: 07 November 2013 by Pan

Edition: New Edit/Cover

ISBN: 9780330323154

EAN: 9780330323154

Home Place, Sussex, 1937. The English family at home . . .

For two unforgettable summers they gathered together, safe from the advancing storm clouds of war. In the heart of the Sussex countryside these were still sunlit days of childish games, lavish family meals and picnics on the beach.

Three generations of the Cazalet family. Their relatives, their children and their servants - and the fascinating triangle of their affairs . . .


4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars  by Anne

Excellent atmosphere and characterisation but a bit slower than I like

This is the first book in a series of volumes about the Cazalet family and it is obvious that the author intends the story to be much longer than just this one novel. For that reason this book was very much about setting the scene for readers and introducing them to the large family and their associates. For me this meant that, on occasion, the book dragged a bit. Nothing really dramatic happens and the story moves from one character to another telling their story and weaving them together into a bigger whole. I was gripped by the writing and the characters but there were still a few moments when I wanted to hurry things along a bit.

The story is set in the immediate pre-WW2 years in an established middle-class family of three generations. The author tells the story of each of these generations and quite a lot of the book is about the children/grandchildren. I didn't get confused between characters and who is related to whom but by the time I get to the next volume I will probably have forgotten everything I knew about their relationships !

The joy of this book is firstly in its evocation of a particular time and way of life The author does an excellent job of creating an appropriate atmosphere and of showing us about cultural norms rather than telling us. The second strength of the book is in the characterisations. The author is handling a large number of characters but she succeeds in making them each into individuals and in making them believable. Nothing much happens here but the reading experience is still very enjoyable despite my wish that it was a bit shorter or more dramatic. The next book will, however, need to have a bit more action to keep me engaged with the series as a whole.

5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars  by Debra Found

Loved It!

It is many years since I last read the Cazalet Chronicles but following the death of the author at the start of this year I felt that I would like to revisit them.

The Cazalets are a fairly wealthy, upper middle class family for whom money isn't that much of a worry. In this first book we meet the three generations who form the backbone of the stories - the Brig and his wife the Duchy, their children Rupert, Rachel, Hugh and Edward with their spouses and children. These are the main characters but there are many additional characters who are vital to the story from the kitchen maid Dottie to Rachel's close friend, Sid. The characters are all quite clearly defined and, with the exception of the lesser parlour maids,  I had their different personalities and roles clearly defined in my mind. I look forward to following the cast through to the next book where they will continue to develop as people.

This book is set in the relatively peaceful period of 1937-1938. Most people are failing to take Hitler particularly seriously with the exception of Hugh, the Brig and Polly who are reacting to their fears in very different ways. The shadow of WWI is still very fresh in people's mind along with the prospect that the tools of war have developed in the last 20 years and the next war will be different.

Set against this background of war are the every day lives of these people. From Simon's concerns about going to a new boarding school, the Duchy's constant concern over meals and the various sisters-in-law's concerns over pregnancy. These are the worries of a niche section of society and certainly don't represent a majority of people of the time. It does, however, make very interesting reading.

I really enjoyed this book, far more than I remember doing so previously. I got very involved with the characters and their lives. I felt quite bereft when the book had finished as if I had lost contact with old friends. The author makes the everyday life of this family very real and immensley interesting. The possibility of a further war grounded this book adding the depth that stops this just being a frivilous story of upper class unreality. I am very much looking forward to reaquainting myself with the characters once the library has the next book in the series available. The fact that this series has remained a firm favourite for so many people for so many years is a testament to a well written and very enjoyable book.

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