Only Time Will Tell (Clifton Chronicles Book 1)
Posted by jack_miller | Published 7 months ago
With 7842 ratings
By: Jeffrey Archer
Purchased At: $1.21 (133 used & new offers)
From the internationally bestselling author of Kane and Abel and A Prisoner of Birth comes Only Time Will Tell, the first in an ambitious new series that tells the story of one family across generations, across oceans, from heartbreak to triumph.
The epic tale of Harry Clifton's life begins in 1920, with the words "I was told that my father was killed in the war." A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he's left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys' school, and his life will never be the same again.
As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?
This introductory novel in Archer's ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler's Germany. From the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City, Only Time Will Tell takes readers on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the reader nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined.
It was soon clear to me why the author has sold in excess of 330 million books. His exceptional gift for storytelling kept me up all night to finish (despite the fact that I knew a cliffhanger was inevitable, as that’s how a book series works).
Archer steers the plot forward at a cracking pace. He is also able to handle several characters in the first person viewpoint, presenting parallel viewpoints, something few authors seem to manage well. Also clever is the way in which he hints at plot twists, often resolving them in the same chapter and ending many chapters with a suggestion as to the next looming crisis, thereby maintaining tension and anticipation for what is to come.
Told in seven parts, from the six main characters different points of view, this gives us the earliest years of Harry Clifton life, from a young child to an adult. Archer lets us in on a plot point early on that we know is going to be a point of contention/conflict later on and we are almost breathlessly waiting for it to come out. When it does, it only provides a jumping off point for a broader story - although that's not immediately obvious until the very last word of this novel.
For fans of Archer’s previous epics (KANE AND ABEL, THE FOURTH ESTATE, SONS OF FORTUNE), the story will have a familiar feel. The rags-to-riches storyline and sparse storytelling technique have served the author well for many years, and ONLY TIME WILL TELL is cut from the same cloth. It’s not exactly ground-breaking fiction; on the other hand, the writing is good enough that the story feels comfortable if not particularly gripping. The author employs a mixture of first-person and third-person narrative, breaking the book into eight distinct parts retelling the same events from different characters’ points of view. The resulting gradual revelation of motivations and backstory creates a satisfying depth that for the most part overcomes some heavy-handedness in the description of events. The author also weaves in enough references to real-life people and events to give an authentic historical feel, and the book ends on a cliffhanger that leaves the reader ready to begin volume two (SINS OF THE FATHER, 2012).
ONLY TIME WILL TELL is not Jeffrey Archer’s finest work, but it is nevertheless a welcome start to a lengthy series by one of the world’s best modern storytellers.
As my all time favourite story-teller, Archer did not disappoint with volume one of the torrid life of Harry Clifton and his sordid beginnings, which we can already see leading to strife, anguish, heartache and betrayal as he grows up.
Sitting down to read this book, it was almost like someone had wrapped a cosy blanket around me and given me a steaming mug of hot chocolate, such is the warm glow that Archer's stories always give me.
This is a man who knows how to tell a tale, both epic and short. My preference is the endless epic, which I truly wish would never end.
The story spans the inter-war years of 1919-1939 and focuses predominantly on the lives of three generations of two families, the Cliftons and the Barringtons. Harry Clifton is the main character of this novel. He is a talented young boy who comes from a poor family and whose father died in the Great War, or at least, that is what he has been told.
The three things I particularly like about the story are its plot, its historical setting and its descriptive prose. In the plot we see the same events unfurl from the viewpoint of different characters in the story. At first I found this a little confusing and seemingly repetitive, but once I realised what was happening, it actually increased my enjoyment of the story. In addition, there are a number of twists and turns in the plot, some of which caught me totally by surprise.
Another aspect I enjoyed is that all the events occur in a period I can relate to; not through personal first-hand experience as I was born after the second world war, but through knowing people who had lived through the inter-war years and having heard them talk about it. Given some of the events that occur in the story, this 'personal connection' added a degree of relevance & realism for me.
Finally I think Jeffrey Archer is a terrific story-teller and I found it extremely easy to visualise the places, people and events he describes in this sweeping saga.
However, if you decide to read this story, be aware that it ends on a cliff-hanger, and you will need to read the next book in the series to see what happens next ... not that this bothered me as I was hooked from the opening pages and immediately downloaded all the other books in the series!