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Circles of Time: A Novel (Greville Family Saga) [Paperback]

Phillip Rock
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Jan 2013 Greville Family Saga

The Acclaimed Trilogy That Has Been Called a Must-Read for Fans of Downton Abbey

A generation has been lost on the Western Front. The dead have been buried, a harsh peace forged, and the howl of shells replaced by the wail of saxophones as the Jazz Age begins. But ghosts linger—that long-ago golden summer of 1914 tugging at the memory of Martin Rilke and his British cousins, the Grevilles.

From the countess to the chauffeur, the inhabitants of Abingdon Pryory seek to forget the past and adjust their lives to a new era in which old values, social codes, and sexual mores have been irretrievably swept away. Martin Rilke throws himself into reporting, discovering unsettling political currents, as Fenton Wood-Lacy faces exile in faraway army outposts. Back at Abingdon, Charles Greville shows signs of recovery from shell shock and Alexandra is caught up in an unlikely romance. Circles of Time captures the age as these strongly drawn characters experience it, unfolding against England's most gracious manor house, the steamy nightclubs of London's Soho, and the despair of Germany caught in the nightmare of anarchy and inflation. Lives are renewed, new loves found, and a future of peace and happiness is glimpsed—for the moment.

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Circles of Time: A Novel (Greville Family Saga) + A Future Arrived: A Novel (P.S.) + The Passing Bells: A Novel
Price For All Three: 27.65

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (15 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062229338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062229335
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 157,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


“Rock never slips his moorings to the story line; and it’s all immensely energetic, top entertainment in the Upstairs/Downstairs vein, complete with bubbling family gossip.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

About the Author

Born in Hollywood, California, Phillip Rock lived in England with his family until the blitz of 1940. He spent his adult years in Los Angeles and published three novels before the Passing Bells series: Flickers, The Dead in Guanajuato, and The Extraordinary Seaman. He died in 2004.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars re read 5 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this years ago and recently purchased it again its lost non of its impact. The trio of these books were obviously used as a template for the the very poor copy Downton Abbey series. Phillip Rock never failed to write a wonderful book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A dreary follow up 20 Feb 2013
By Jules C
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A disappointing follow up to The Passing Bells. (If you are a fan of Downton Abbey you will enjoy this) It lacks the sparkle and interest of the first book, and I ended up skipping through bits that were rather dreary. Not one that I would keep and re-read, which I have with the first book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat stronger than "THE PASSING BELLS" 13 Oct 2009
By SusieQ - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A sequel to THE PASSING BELLS, CIRCLES OF TIME takes the English aristocratic family, the Grevilles, and their friends through the years 1921-1923.

In some ways I thought this book was stronger than THE PASSING BELLS. It dramatized some of the effects of the Great War on one English aristocratic family, as well as including compelling scenes set in postwar Germany among the rising National Socialists. Although somewhat predictable in parts (I thought Alexandra's romance was a bit contrived, and Winnie's extramarital relationship also), the character of Martin Rilke; his role as a journalist and involvement in the politics of the era is the touchstone that takes the family's story away from stereotypical romantic developments and make it an enjoyable, above-average read. 3.75 stars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Follow up to Passing Bells 7 Feb 2013
By misplaced cajun - Published on
The war to end all wars has finally come to an end and with it comes great change. For the Grevilles, though, it does mean something of a return to normalcy: Abingdon Pryory will soon be returned to its former glory and Lord Stanmore is anxious to return to the country estate. Alexandra, now widowed and with a young son in tow, has returned from overseas but there's tension between her and her father. Charles also has returned and is showing marked improvement. Meanwhile, Martin has taken a position with a large international news agency and Fenton Wood-Lacy has been exiled to the Middle East.

Oh, I can't tell you have happy I was to return to this series! When I turned the final page on THE PASSING BELLS I was already anticipating diving into the second and third installments. After all, we'd learned that Martin was a widow and Charles was out of his mind thanks to shell shock. And what of William, who we barely met, and Alexandra and Robbie and all of the others?!

Fortunately, CIRCLES OF TIME picks up just a little after the end of PASSING BELLS. Martin has decided to move on and Charles's friends are rallying together to get Lord Grantham, I mean Lord Stanmore to consider bringing him home for his recovery. (And yes, readers, this second installment does definitely bring to mind DOWNTON especially with regards to the family patriarch!)

Now that the war has ended, the Grevilles and others like them are slowly putting the pieces of their lives back together. Alexandra is struggling with her father's old fashioned ideals. Lord Stanmore is, in fact, struggling with his old fashioned ideals as well and the way the world is changing around him. It was interesting to see him slowly come around to some of the social changes, especially once Charles began to recover. That alone seemed to be the turning point for Anthony Greville, allowing him to finally put aside some of his staunch ideals and embrace the evolving world around him.

And like many of the other reviews I've seen thus far, Martin remains by far my favorite character. His position as a journalist and writer not only gives him a unique viewpoint amongst the varied characters of the story, but also allows him to move around a bit -- both literally and figuratively (socially). He travels to the Middle East to interview Fenton, giving us a glimpse not only of the military activity there but finally bringing Fenton back into the story. Martin also travels to Germany and becomes the first character to discuss what he witnesses as a result of the war... and foreshadowing the war to come.

These are characters that I've come to know and love through Rock's writing and I will be sad to say goodbye with the final installment.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Effects of WWI 30 Jan 2013
By P. Woodland - Published on
Circles of Time is the second book in The Passing Bells Trilogy (you can read my review of The Passing Bells). This book picks up a few years after the end of WWI as each of the characters the reader met in the first book struggles to adjust to life in a world turned upside down by a war that killed millions.

Abingdon Pryory is being rebuilt by Lord Greville exactly as it was before the war. He plans to move back there once the renovations are done despite the fact that Lady Greville does not seem as anxious to move back to the country and the large house. Especially since their son Charles is in hospital suffering from what we now know as post traumatic shock syndrome. Their daughter Alexandra is back in England from Canada after what they consider to be a disastrous life choice and Lord Greville barely acknowledges her presence. Fenton Wood-Lacy butt heads with the upper echelons of Her Majesty's Army and is being encouraged to retire but he wants no other job so he accepts a posting that is supposed to be the end of his career leaving his pregnant wife with their two daughters to await him in England.

But this book I think is truly Martin Rilke's tale. Having written his book which told the truth about the true horrors of the war he is finally ready to leave his wife's grave in France and come back to England and further his career in journalism. He is the driver of this part of the trilogy and he is the perfect linchpin being friends to most and related to the rest of the main characters. The book is told mostly through Martin's eyes - not all of it, but most of it.

Just as with The Passing Bells I found myself completely wrapped up in the lives of these characters. In some ways even more so because they were like old friends. I felt the pain of the loss of some of them and was horrified by the aftereffects of the war on the people and the countries. But peace was not to last forever as history showed us and this book ends just as Hitler is starting to spout his ugly rhetoric.

I've given this a slightly lower rating than The Passing Bells because of the last third of the book. Too much wrapped up much too quickly in my opinion. The first book and the beginning of this book was so rich in character and detail I felt that so much happened so quickly and without all of that wonderful attention to what the characters were feeling and to the history of the time. It's as if the author was just ready to move on to the next book and needed to tie up loose ends.

A minor complaint indeed when applied to the whole of story so far. I am very much looking forward to the finale in A Future Arrived.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping story, gorgeously told! 8 Feb 2013
By Ruth Anderson - Published on
While the "war to end all wars" came to its official conclusion in 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, two years later the effect of that devastating conflict is still to be found rippling through the lives of the survivors. American Martin Rilke, who gained worldwide acclaim for his dispatches from the frontlines, returns to London to work as a news bureau chief -- but leaves a piece of his heart buried forever in a Flanders grave. His Greville cousins have their own wartime scars -- Alexandra has returned to Abingdon, bringing with her a young son, the only remnant of a passionate love affair and all-too-brief marriage, cut short by her husband's untimely death. Her long-time affair with the tortured Irish doctor -- and their barely legitimized child -- have left her parents, particularly the earl, scandalized by the changing moral values of post-war society. Meanwhile her brother Charles, the heir, shell-shocked and amnesiac, is a painful reminder of what the war robbed from the Greville family -- a past some would rather see stay buried than risk the heartbreak of unfulfilled hope. And family friend Fenton faces painful repercussions from the army for his role in refusing to bury the truth of Charles's tragic breakdown -- an honorable act that may cost him his family, if not his very life.

Each member of this family, tied to Abingdon Pryory by right of birth or friendship, must grapple with not only the impact of the war on their lives but also the rapidly changing social and political more of society that have blossomed in its aftermath. For traditionalists such as Anthony, the Greville family patriarch, the loosening of morals signals the beginning of the end for a long-held and dearly cherished way of life. Faced with change demanded by the war's indelible impact on each of his children's lives, Anthony and his wife must decide if they can accept the new in order to maintain the dearest tradition of all -- familial bonds. Charles's restoration and slow recovery is a stunningly poignant example of the "unseen" costs of conflict (and, in many respects, mental illness in general -- a medical field whose treatment and research expanded as a necessary by-product of the war), as the horror of war left him a prisoner of shell shock and memory. The family's initial reluctance to address and come to terms with his condition, followed by their tentative steps in accepting, treating, and seeking to reincorporate him into their lives rather than denying his survival is a moving portrayal of reconciliation, hope, and healing in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

While Martin remains by far my favorite character in this sprawling family epic (more on him in a moment), Alexandra's storyline was perhaps this volume's greatest surprise. Transformed by the war from a flighty, superficial society miss into a somber nurse and long-time married man's lover, by the traditional standards of her aristocratic origins she is "spoiled goods." But the war and its aftermath added great depth and compassion to her character, and the way in which this dedicated mother and mourning widow finds a second chance from a most unexpected quarter made my heart soar. And this is the beauty of Rock's carefully crafted characters -- while, from a conservative, traditional viewpoint, many of their choices are, at the very least, questionable, they are always very honest to the individual and his or her circumstances. Each individual that makes up this world is gloriously, beautifully, messy, flawed, and authentic. I love these characters -- not only for Rock's sterling sense of time and place and authenticity, but because they are each so fully realized. I can't help but celebrate their triumphs and mourn with them in their pain -- vibrant, flesh-and-blood characters all that bring the tumult of the Jazz Age to technicolor life on the page.

As the novel progresses, Martin once again takes center stage as his work as a reporter and passion for bringing the truth to the press gives him a front-row seat to witness the impact of the world's desire to crush Germany for her transgressions -- and in that quest for reparations are sown the seeds of the conflict to come. I have a tremendous passion for World War II history and the interwar years of political, social, and economic unrest that served as a prelude to coming war. Seeing those early seeds of discord find fertile ground through Martin's ever-perceptive eyes, both horrified and powerless to bring the full impact of the brewing anarchist movement in Germany to light -- since it could never happen again, it wasn't more than "they" deserved, it would all "work itself out" -- is a masterful example of the power and potential of historical fiction. Rock is one of those rare historical authors with the power to shock with their work. By restoring the vibrancy and life to a time and place, the birth of National Socialism and the rise of Hitler becomes more than just dates and times. Through Martin's eyes the chilling implications of Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch, the socio-economic realities that fostered his rise and the embrace of his rhetoric possible come to life, resulting in one of the rare instances where a fictional recreation of history fostered within an electric, visceral response. That sense of living history once again, of witnessing the world, in its desperation to recover from one war sow the seeds for a second, is an extraordinary experience.

Starting Circles of Time I was nervous, sure that there was no way it could live up to just how much I loved its predecessor -- but I couldn't have been more wrong. With his second outing exploring the intricacies of the lives of the Grevilles and their circle, Rock has delivered a sequel that is the equal, and perhaps in some respects, arguably the better, of its forerunner. Within the greater framework of a society, a world, left reeling by a devastating war, Rock explores through characters like Martin, Alexandra, and Charles, the thousand little ways in which their world -- indeed, their very identities -- were torn down by the conflict, leaving them to face a brave new world in which to remake themselves and their hope of a future if not free from war's shadow, than one not wholly dictated by the horrific effects of that conflict. In many respects this is an incredibly life-affirming novel, as each of the characters that I've grown to love over the course of two novels discovers their true mettle. It speaks to the powerful resiliency of the human spirit, as Martin, having just met the evil of National Socialism first-hand, can still speak to hope -- "Oh God...let the marching always be to glad song -- to tidings of comfort and joy." And like our fictional counterparts, no matter how dark the day, may we never lose sight of the promise of a coming dawn.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 3 July 2014
By Kate - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
came in good conditions.
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