Although Jeffrey Archer's first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, was my favorite, he made his name with his 1980 book, Kane and Abel. It went to number one on the New York Times bestseller list. It was the first of his novels to tell the story of conflict in the rise to power. Now, with Only Time Will Tell, he returns to the pattern that launched his success. This is the first in a multigenerational saga, The Clifton Chronicles. Thirty-one years after the success of Kane and Abel, Jeffrey Archer still has the ability to tell a good story, introduce fascinating characters, and leave the reader with a cliffhanger ending. Darn him anyway.
Only Time Will Tell is the story of Harry Clifton until the age of twenty, but it's told from various viewpoints, beginning with Harry's mother, Maisie, who tells of the day she lost her virginity, just before her marriage. One afternoon will change the lives of so many people, not just Maisie's and Harry's. Harry only knew his father had died shortly after he was born, but he never knew the truth. And, people conspired to keep that from him.
At the same time, people conspired to improve Harry's lot in life. He went from a young boy who only hoped to work on the docks, to a boy blessed with a beautiful voice, encouraged to use that voice and get an education. In the course of the years of Harry's education, he tells his own story. It's also seen through the eyes of his mentor, Old Jack Tar; his best friend, Giles Barrington; the woman who loves Harry; and his mother. Readers will root for Harry. But, it's not fair to leave us with a cliffhanger following traumatic, and dramatic, changes in Harry's life, on the verge of World War II.
There are so many strong, courageous people to admire in Only Time Will Tell, beginning with Harry's mother. Maisie had no education, but she fought to get an education for her son. And, she has to fight throughout this story. Despite the ups and downs of her life, everything she did was for her son. Maybe people will find Harry too perfect, but he's the perfect hero to launch a family saga. There are so many wonderful characters, as well as the appropriate villain. Archer is a master at creating characters.
Two years ago, when I reviewed Roses by Leila Meacham, I wondered if it was time for family sagas to become popular again. Jeffrey Archer is starting a new series with a cliffhanger, the first book in The Clifton Chronicles. Can he bring back the genre he helped to popularize? Only Time Will Tell.
Jeffrey Archer's website is www.JeffreyArcher.com
Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer. St. Martin's Press. ©2011. ISBN 9780312539559 (hardcover), 400p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.