Friday, September 2, 2011

A Review of "Only Time Will Tell" [57]

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0312539559
August 30, 2011, 400pages

"This story would never have been written if I hadn't become pregnant. Mind you, I had always planned to love my virginity on the works outing to Weston-super-Mare, just not to that particular man."
The particular man being someone other than her finance, who was off getting drunk with a buddy during the holiday outing, while Maisie Clifton, the narrator who starts the book, meets a man on the pier and goes to a hotel with him. Eight months later, in the year 1920, the now married Maisie and her husband welcome a son, Harry, who will be at the center of this, the first in what is to be a multi-book saga.

Whether you enjoy this book..or think it is over the top melodrama...may very well depend on if you believe the story set out in that first sentence is believable. 1919..girl picks up a man and sleeps with him just because she wants to..gets pregnant and 8 months later gives birth to a son and her husband does not wonder if something is off. Well, her husband does not have long to wonder, because low and behold, before we know it, the husband mysterious disappears one day at work, never to be seen again. She tell her son his father died in the war, which even a boy can figure out does not compute with that date of his birth but is afraid to question. It seems she and her son are destined to live a life of poverty, living with her elderly parents and drunken brother who works at the docks, where Harry will no doubt end up one day when he leave school at the age of 14.

But that is not to be, because Harry has a unique gift, a wonderful singing voice that, with some help from several people, wins him a scholarship to the pretentious St. Bede's School. There he enters a world that he could only imagine and soon finds himself friends with the likes of Giles Barrington, whose grandfather and father own the very shipyard at which he thought he would one day work. Giles and he are great pals, but when his friend takes young Harry home to meet his family, Giles' father, Hugo, will not even look at Harry...who at this point will be the only one who can't see why that is. Not to give too much away, but I think I hear thunder in the distance when Harry and Emma, Giles' sister, start giving each other goo goo eyes. Oh no, that is not a good idea kids.

This installment tell the Clinton family story from 1920 to 1940.
"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."
There is blackmail and arson, prostitution and murder and all sorts of other interesting events told from several points of view, from the likable Harry, the not-to-be stopped Maisie, the evil Hugo Barrington to Old Jack Tar, one characters who I really would have liked to know more about. Yes, each point of view gives us a bit more information, but honestly, gets a bit repetitious. Mr. Archer, you may want to reconsider the multi-point of view technique in the next book. It gets a bit old.
By in large, the plot is fairly predicable, but with enough surprises to keep the reader interested and a very nice twist at the very end.

So, did I dislike this book? Would I recommend you give it a pass?
Well, actually, no.
It is far from perfect, and at times over the top and requires a wee suspension of disbelief, but still, I rather enjoyed it. It is well written, Harry is a charmer, and it moves along at a snappy pace. And it ends with a great cliffhanger that, most likely, will force me to check out the next book. Will I hang on for what I believe are the five planned books? Well, we will have to see about that.
Is it great literature? No. Is it fun and pretty entertaining? Yes.
So, as long as you know what you are getting, it is a fun, quick, summer read.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to review.


  1. Hmmm. I'm on the fence. I really do like multi-book epics, but there has to be a real solid foundation to build upon. Seems like this might fall into the category of airplane read?

  2. a beach read, an airplane read..yes. which is not a bad thing just is what it is.

  3. Hmmm... still wondering about this one as the last Archer book I read was so fraught with mistakes that annoyed me. The improbablility of some of the senarios irked me too to no end. I do trust your judgement though and may give this a try at some point - just not rushing into it.

  4. I've read a couple of Archer's other books and enjoyed them, so I'll probably give this one a go.

  5. Might be perfect for next week's road trip. I don't like to start anything too deep when I know there will be tons of interruptions.

  6. I swore off this author after reading his book Kane & Abel … and this sounds like it is in the same ilk. Pass!


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