Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: Only Time Will Tell by Jeffery Archer

The Audible Publisher's Summary:

From the internationally best-selling 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 is never the same.
As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to a 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 listeners on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life 100 years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the listener nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined.

Here's another selection off the New York Times Bestseller list a brand new series by British author Jeffery Archer (Paths of Glory, A Prisoner of Birth, The Gospel According to Judas, False Impression, Sons of Fortune, The Eleventh Commandment, etc). It has been a few years since I picked up a Jeffery Archer novel, the premise of Only Time Will Tell and the promise of a new series convinced me to spend the credit.

Only Time Will Tell is broken into seven sections, each section told by one of the main characters - from their perspective. Of Mayzie Clifton, Harry Clifton, Jiles Barrington, Old Jack Tarrant, Hugo Barrington, Emma Barrington and of Sir Walter Barrington. This weave of stories and perspectives contribute strongly to the tapestry of the novel - the result is a compelling story that never lost my attention for a moment. My only criticism is that the novel ends abruptly - with so many open plot threads. I know that's the point of a series - but I also think that if the novel had ended about 25 minutes sooner, the result would have been more satisfying. The novel reaches that point and then starts off again to leave the reader hanging. As a reader (or listener) I don't need all the answers in book one of a series, but I appreciate a good button-up!

Narration by the tag-team duo of Roger Allam and Emelia Fox was superb. I've found as a whole, production  quality on Audible offerings (via individual publishing houses) has improved greatly with the 2011 releases. I think this reflects the shift of so many readers to audible books - busy lives, lots of time to spend with their ipods and not so much time to sit and read.

Two important things to note, first the audible version of this audiobook has an interview with the author - who speaks about his process, boasts about his storytelling ability and throws out a pretty major spoiler for the next book (or even books?) in the series. Secondly, the Publisher's summary is misleading - including the start of the second world war as though chronologically it happens towards the beginning of the book - when the novel takes place (in entirety) in the years between "the great war" and what will become WWII.

Only Time Will Tell was written by Jeffery Archer and published by MacMillan Audio. Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles) was released on 8/30/2011, has a runtime of 12 hours 41 minutes and was narrated by Roger Allam and Emelia Fox.

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