Only Time Will Tell – Jeffrey Archer

archerArgh. I’ve done it again! And I can’t even blame anyone else this time, I mean the book clearly states «The Clifton Chronicles Volume 1». Why, why, why did I not take five seconds to check online and confirm that, yes, there will be a sequel, and no it’s not available yet (April next year, apparently). Then I could have put the book back on the shelf and found something else to read. Instead I read it. I even got so caught up in the story I read waaaaaaay past my bedtime (I would have finished it that night if the lass hadn’t woken up and demanded to sleep in our bed, so I had to turn off the lights to get her to sleep). And then, of course, as the amount of pages left in the book diminished while there was obviously quite a lot of story still to go, it dawned on me. But too late, alas.

So now I wait with bated breath for April.

Only Time Will Tell centers on Harry Clifton, who is born in 1920 into a working class family in Bristol. Harry’s father died when Harry was a baby, and no one wants to talk about him or his death. Harry is told he died in the war, which he soon figures out can’t be true. Harry is an exceptionally bright child, and luckily he also has the voice of an angel before his voice breaks, he is therefore able to attend a good school on a choral scholarship. Little by little Harry uncovers the truth about his background. This first volume takes us to the start of WW2.

Harry’s story encompasses some of my favourite Archer clichés (clichés are not all bad, you know), the poor boy making good, the hidden past needing uncovering, selfish «villains» from the upper class suffering from major entitlement issues, decent people from all classes standing by the hero through his struggles, and so on. It’s all familiar stuff, but it works beautifully, and Archer weaves the whole into a gripping story. I’ll have to wait for the sequel to see where it all goes, and to judge whether I’m happy with the whole, but so far it’s promising.

Read it. But don’t read it before the sequel(s) is out. In the meantime, if you’ve yet to read Archer, I’d recommend As the Crow Flies or Kane and Abel as good starting points.

Summarising again

Really, where does the time go? Recent (well, since may…) reads in no particular order (and probably missing a few):

The series that will no longer be named. All in a row. Lovely. I am still pretty happy with the ending, but noticed a few minor inconsistencies along the way this time.

Lessons from the Land of Pork Scratchings by Greg Gutfeld. Abysmal. Didn’t finish it. I’ll be writing more about it at some point, because, really! But, you know, take this as a warning to stay WELL away.

Packaging Girlhood. Quite illuminating. Meant to write more on this, too. Ah well.

Consumer Kids. Followed naturally. Very informative on how kids are not only inundated with ads, but used to advertise to friends and provide market research, quite frequently unknowingly. Should probably be read by every parent.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith. Perfection, as usual.

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. Keyes back on great form and with a serious theme this time, which she excels at treating.

The Brontes Went to Woolworth by Rachel Ferguson. Reread because I had to take it down to copy out one of my favourite quotes ever:

A woman at one of mother’s parties once said to me, «Do you like reading?» which smote us all to silence, for how could one tell her that books are like having a bath or sleeping, or eating bread – absolute necessities which one never thinks of in terms of appreciation.

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer. As usual Archer spins a pretty – and gripping – tale. However, knowing how it all ends spoiled it a bit for me. Not that I know all that much about Mount Everest climbs and such, but I do know a little, and the prologue reveals what I didn’t. I suppose part of it is knowing it doesn’t end in «they lived happily ever after», which I’m a sucker for and which Archer frequently delivers with aplomb. Still, exceedingly readable.

And that made me realise I’ve forgotten to note reading A Prisoner of Birth, also by Archer, which was REALLY good, just what the doctor ordered, and Archer – to me – at his best. I happen to love courtroom dramas, too, so this had pretty much everything. No idea when I read it, though, so I popped it in here… Probably shortly after the paperback was issued, but I’m not sure.

Time flies

Since early May I’ve read a lot of books and been dumb as an oyster about most of them. To give myself a chance to catch up I will therefore throw them all in this catch-up post and start afresh with the current read once I’ve finished that.

Having felt for a long time that I really ought to read some of the Moomin books, I read Pappan och havet, which is perhaps one of the darkest and least «children’s literature» of Tove Jansson’s great series. I then read three books in the Dot-series by Inge Møller that I picked up in a jumble sale – hardly great literature and not even the best of their genre, but not an unpleasant way to spend an afternoon.

I then got through Follestad and Ffforde, before embarking on P. D. James’ latest, The Lighthouse, which, fortunately, was every bit as good as one could have hoped. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was next, a fascinating book, though overhyped, and also not at all what I expected (though I don’t know what I expected, to be honest, I just had no idea what the book was about owing to the fact that all I’ve ever done before is look at the front of the cover).

Next I picked Roald Dahl’s My Uncle Oswald off the shelf – I’d bought it a while back mainly because, well, it’s a Dahl and it also happened to be a first edition in good shape. This was quite entertaining, though I suspect the subject matter would enrage some people, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with the conclusion.

I bought The Wicked Winter by Kate Sedley at my doctor’s office (there’s a Lions’ Club book sale shelf there) and was entertained. It was pretty good as these things go – the main character, who is also the narrator, is sympathetic and the mystery had a nice twist at the end which I certainly didn’t foresee. However, not a likely candidate for a reread, it’s too… well, I suppose «simple» will have to do for a descriptive word – It’s too simple for that. Well enough written, though. So I stuck a bookcrossing label in it and left it in Britain somewhere. I hope somebody else will pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did.

I borrowed Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor from my father, who’s a fan, and enjoyed it to a certain extent, but it was not the sort of book I really wanted to read just now – I’ve been on the search for strong main characters and a make-you-turn-the-page-quickly central plot, and whatever Lake Wobegon‘s merits, those are not among them. So I turned to another rearead instead, The Fourth Estate by Jeffrey Archer. Not the best choice, unfortunately, as neither of the two arch rivals really manage to engange my sympathy in sufficient degree to make me care much about «who wins». Still, Archer is always good entertainment.

Next was Hver sin verden by Marianne Fredriksson, which was almost good. Fredriksson ruined the book for me by making basic mistakes regarding Scandinavian/nordic history (assuming an Icelander with the surname Anarson must be a decedant of earlier Anarsons was the most glaring one) and by formatting the text very strangely. Instead of sticking to the standard paragraph indicator (indented first line) there was also a blank line between paragraph-lengths blocks of text. Mostly this was just a waste of paper and though it seemed unecessary, it could be taken to indicate a «break» in the narrative – replacing the line «Some time later» for example. However, it sometimes happened in the middle of dialogues or otherwise coherent episodes, and felt just as wrong as putting a full stop in the middle of a sentence. I came very close to throwing the book across the room a couple of times, but managed to restrain myself.

Kane, Abel and the Prodigal Daughter

kaneabel.jpg prodigal.jpg

So, it turned out Linda had Kane and Abel, so I didn’t need the library after all. I haven’t actually read Kane and Abel before, as such, I’ve heard it as audiobook instead. Anyway, it’s a gripping story, quite as gripping the second time around. I followed it by a reread of The Prodigal Daughter, logically enough, as it’s a sequel of sorts (though it can be read separately, I would highly recommend reading Kane and Abel first, as reading them in the «wrong» order will spoil the first for you to some extent – as the main gist of the story is repeated summarily, though from a slightly different point of view).

Mild spoilers follow…
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First Among Equals


I thought I might as well get on with this Archer reread, and since I’ve only read First Among Equals once before I figured it was due its turn. It’s all good. I want to read Kane and Abel next, but have discovered that I don’t own a copy. I might just check if the library can help me on this one…

As the Crow Flies


There is a bit of an Archer reread going on. At least I’ve just finished As the Crow Flies for, I think, the fourth time, and I think I will probably start on First Among Equals pretty soon. As the Crow Flies is possibly my favourite Archer book. It’s the poor boy done good motif, of course, as Charlie Trumper makes his way from working at his grandfather’s barrow in the Whitechapel market to retiring as chairman of «the biggest barrow in the world», a Harrods-like department store in Chelsea as the reader shouts «Good for you!». However, it’s also Archer’s customary ability to make the wheelings and dealings of business’ and politics’ tactics seem fascinating.

I might have mentioned before the complete suspension of disbelief that goes with loving to reread books. It is this quality which makes it possible to find Pride & Prejudice exciting at the 20th rereading («Will they really get it together this time, too?»), and it’s an ability I’d be loath to lose. However, in some cases it’s more of a curse, as with As the Crow Flies where, no matter how well I remember the details, there is one death in the novel which is equally devastating at every reading. In fact, it gets worse once you know it’s coming, as you feel there ought to be some way for you to prevent it – a timely phone call to one of the main characters, for example.

Consider yourself warned. Don’t let it stop you reading the book, however, as it really is very good.

Sons of Fortune


There ought to be an internet site where you can list the authors you are interested in and be notified whenever they publish a new book. Too often I find there is a new book out by one of my favourite authors and that it has actually been out for quite a while and no one has bothered to tell me. I know I could pay greater attention to the press or visit bookshops more often, but I would really prefer not to as I spend enough money on books as it is (and as we all know, it is physically impossible to walk out of a bookshop without having purchased any books – and were I to read more reviews I would be tempted to visit bookshops more).

So we need an internet service. I offer this as an idea to anyone who is looking for a concept for a new site. I’d do it myself, but can’t be bothered. I’d rather just get on with reading the books.

In the meantime, I am grateful to Donna for listing Jeffrey Archer’s Sons of Fortune on her currently reading list, as it alerted me to the existence of the novel. Naturally, I rushed to the bookshop to secure a copy immediately.

It is good. It’s not Archer’s best, but it gripped me pretty much immediately and held my attention until the last page (I would have preferred not to have to put it down, unfortunately that could not be avoided). It ends with a trick, as is habitual with Archer – I’d tell you what it was, but that would be a major spoiler.