My dad assures me that a lot of people don’t like Jeffrey Archer’s writing, and unfortunately, because I read the first 6 of these novels while I was unable to write in this blog, there is absolutely no way I can do it justice in this review. All I can say is that I don’t know why people have such a problem with Archer – this, his most recent series, has blown me away.
The Clifton Chronicles
This series of 7 novels follows the tale of two families, the Barringtons and the Cliftons, and the unlikely relationships and complications that occur between them. We begin when Harry is a boy, meeting his mother and father, and hearing about his grandparents. In book 7, Harry and Emma become great grandparents. It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a ride, following this family so closely for so long. I can only really cover here what happened in this novel particularly, but don’t read on if you have any intention of reading it! Please return to ‘overall’ below if you want to, that won’t contain any spoilers!
Harry and Emma are NOT brother and sister. I have never been so relieved. It made their decision back in novel 2 to not have any further children incredibly sad because you knew that they would have loved for Sebastian to have been raised as one of many. It was beautifully understated, their discovery, because their love for each other had far surpassed anything barriers at this point.
The discovery of Harry’s father’s body was also understated and well placed; you felt sympathy and gladness that the uncertainty was set to rest, but sad that Emma’s father had been responsible for such an atrocity.
Giles finally became a father – his adopted son Freddie came to love him in such an unusual and roundabout way, and his adoption as a teenager was testament to the kindness and love that surrounded the Clifton and Barrington families. You often forgot that Emma and Harry met because Harry and Giles were best friends in school, and Emma was Giles’ sister. This was often referred to in this final novel and continued to add depth to it.
It was such a relief to discover that Karin didn’t die, and that Giles was able to accept her past and move on with her, and the scenes of them travelling through Berlin as the wall fell down spoke volumes for a generation that suffered through the atrocities the separation of East and West Germany caused.
All the various plot strands that for so long have been intricately interwoven together finally concluded satisfactorily. And then… the ending.
Harry killed Emma. It was euthanasia, but it was heart wrenching. Her surprise diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease and her speedy decline were heart breaking to witness. She fell from a powerful lady in the House of Lords to someone unable to even feed and dress herself. She asked Harry to kill her, and his love for her was so great that he obliged and died 9 days later, unable to continue without her.
It is clear that Archer has a great love for Harry’s character as the final chapter is devoted to his memorial service and a recollection of the great things he achieved in his life. To list them all here would be pointless, as it would just be a repetition of the final chapter, but I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute for any person, fictional or real. It was both satisfactory and heart wrenching because this family will go in a thousand different directions now, and Harry’s death marked the end of an era.
This is a realistic, heart tugging story of love, war, joy and sorrow, hatred and fear. It is the tale of a few ordinary people who achieved great things. The writing is clear and concise, it offers plenty of opportunity for imagination whilst clearly giving direction. I never found one typo in it, so yay to the editor!
These books were unlike any I had read before, but I’ll certainly be returning to Archer as an author again, as they touched my heart in painful and complete ways that I hadn’t expected. I cannot rate these books high enough, and hope that others find the same joy in them that I did.
There is so much more to write, but I’d have to go back through the whole series book by book. And I can’t do that right now! Just know that I love these books, and that I have adopted Harry and Emma Clifton as my grandparents!