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.
The problem with Authors as well-known as this one is that the reader expects a certain quality of writing, character development and top-notch editing and proof-reading. In this novel which is the first in a series, he manages to reach those expectations, but falls horribly short in others. I’ve never been an ardent fan of his works as a whole, but have found some to be fairly enjoyable to read, so I was not going into this with any preconceived notion as to which side of the fence this one would fall.
As always his characters are well-developed and thought out, even though, in some instances, a little insipid and naive for my tastes. Covering varying families as it does, each one has their main protagonist telling the family story and this led to a feeling of the whole thing being a smidge disjointed in some areas. As well as the characters were written, there were none that I felt I could really connect with and, over time I was just wanting something to happen that would wake them all up. The saving grace in the character area was the writing of the mentorship between two of the males; it was written sensitively and with a real life feel about it, that actually made me smile a little when the fruit of all that time spent ripened.
The style of this book is very easy to read, but again not overly engrossing; it is definitely a book a reader could put down and walk away from for a few hours without feeling a sense of guild or loss at doing so. If you are looking for a nice tidy ending, this is probably not the book you should be reading, as the twist in the story at the end is so distant from the start of the book that it can only lead the reader to the conclusion that this is just the beginning of a saga.
If you are looking for an easy to read book, that does not try the mint too much, or a saga to carry you through the summer then this is probably for you. Unfortunately, for me, I feel that this will be the last time I read anything by this Author.