To gain full enjoyment out of this book you do need to have read the previous four
Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
This volume opens with the death of the Duchy. It is 1956 and with the passing of the
old lady the life of privelege found in the earlier chronicles comes to an end also.
The author does a brilliant job of bringing the reader up to speed with past
histories without holding up the continuing story.
In this post-war world, the family finds itself facing the challenges of a changing
world and economic climate, and are dealing with an uncertain future. This is a
new world, where financial securities of the past are jeopardised. Prosperity of
the family buisness can longer be guaranteed, consequently bold decisions have to
be taken concerning the fate of the beautiful country house which was the setting
of so many idyllic summers and Christmases in the past.
E J Howard draws the reader in fully and convincingly, so you feel involved in these characters
lives and care deeply about them. Howard's strength is bringing alive historical
detail and brings into play social, cultural and economic changes and how they impact
on the day to day lives of individuals.
This is a book reflecting on change in all its forms and nostalgic though it is - the
harshness of modern times and events do reflect the life of the author herself who at
the age of ninety has written an engaging and powerful closing chapter of the Cazalet
chronicles - a gem of a book.
on 3 June 2014
“ALL CHANGE” is one of those novels that reveals a rich, colorful, and vivid canvas studded with a variety of interesting, complex, and compelling characters whose lives tug at the heart, bring out ripples of ticklish laughter, and captures the reader’s interest. It is the fifth novel in The Cazalet Chronicles, which are set in Britain and span from the 1930s to the 1950s.
The novel begins with the death, in the late spring of 1956, of 'the Duchy', who, at 89, was the matriarch of the Cazalets. Her daughter, Rachel, was at her side, as ever faithful, steadfast, loving, supportive, and wholly unselfish. Her brothers --- Hugh, Edward, and Rupert (varying in age from mid to late 50s) --- along with their families (many of whom will be familiar to readers of the previous 4 novels in the series) are caught up in a series of challenges and jarring changes in their lives in a world in which they feel woefully ill-equipped to live and thrive. Rachel, too, is faced with difficulties in her relationship with the love of her life, and with the possible loss of all that she has held dear. Elizabeth Jane Howard is a fantastic writer who knows how to make a word, a phrase, or a paragraph resonate with the reader in each chapter (which is named for a specific character or characters and serves to shed a special focus on the person or persons it highlights).
Once the reader becomes immersed in “ALL CHANGE”, he/she won’t want to leave. The lives of the people it relates become real and tangible. Indeed, for all its 592 pages, I fairly raced through this novel, never feeling bored or bogged down by minutae or tiresome details.
The Cazalets are people that I came to deeply care about in the 11 years I’ve known them. And now that I’ve finished reading “ALL CHANGE”, I feel utterly bereft. Elizabeth Jane Howard passed away last January. So, there will be no more Cazalet novels. While this causes me sadness and frustration --- because I would have loved to see many of the younger characters mature and flower in future decades --- I am grateful to have had the pleasure of this gift which Elizabeth Jane Howard has left us as her literary legacy.
on 9 November 2013
The Cazalet novels are modern classics, and I was so looking forward to this slightly unexpected bonus.
In the really important ways I wasn't disappointed. Howard is masterly at representing real life through the prism of fiction, it's high points and dull realities, pleasures and pains.
However (as another reviewer has said) there is the glaring error that it was Hugh's son William's twin who died at birth, not Simon's. Yet more than that, facts presented in the four previous novels have been altered. Simon was not told that his mother Sybil died by his Headmaster; he was brought home from school in time to say goodbye, when she was still conscious, a fact that upset his sister Polly who was only taken in to see her when she wasn't. In CASTING OFF Simon was also a success at University and set to be a doctor, confident and sure of his place in the world. This is not reflected in this book at all.
It makes me wonder how well the current editor actually knew the quartet of previous books. That grouch over, I loved the novel.
on 3 January 2014
I start to write this having just learned of the death of the author, Elizabeth Jane Howard. One of her last interviews, with the Daily Telegraph, includes the telling sentence about the hiatus between Casting Off, the fourth Cazalet novel, and All Change - "absolute hell from a continuity point of view. You keep on having to remember what you called someone's chauffeur 15 years ago. It's quite hard work, that."
And it shows. All Change is a dreary, depressing read. The children lack the charm of the previous generation, and the quasi-incestuous storyline beggars belief (yes, I'm well aware that Edward molested the teenage Louise, but she reacted with revulsion. This particular "relationship" is beyond any kind of credibility). Diana turns into a monster promised in Casting Off. Villy continues as the wronged heroine. Simon turns into another Christopher. One particular death is a real shock which the readers could have been spared. I genuinely wish that Miss Howard, may she rest in peace, had stopped at four volumes and left us devotees with our memories.
This is the final book in the Cazalet series. If you haven't read any of the previous books then start with "The Light Years" and work your way through. This book will not make any sense unless you have read the whole series. If you need a refresher then there is a brief summary in the front of the book.
This was an excellent conclusion to a wonderful series. We have now arrived in the 1950s and those children we have watched grow up throughout the books - Polly, Clary, Teddy etc - are mostly married with children of their own. A new generation of children is heading to Home Place for their Christmasses. Times have changed and the older generation of Hugh, Rachel, Edward and Rupert are struggling to live in the new world where tradition and loyalty in business are not as important as they were. There is now a daily help doing some basic housework and the days of a full quota of servants have long gone. This generation are coping in various ways with the changes - Rupert better than the others with Hugh and Rachel left floundering in a world that they are struggling to understand. I am sure this is an excellent parallel with the older generation today who are trying to adapt, with varying degrees of success, to the world of ipads, ipods and internet for everything!
We have followed the characters throughout these books and it is wonderful to see how they have developed. Neville, who was quite a self-centred and difficult child has progressed into a difficult and self-centred adult. Polly has become a very efficient housewife and mother whereas Clary has remained rather more complicated. We are able to see how the earlier difficulties in life during the war and the loss of parents have changed these people. There are some characters missing in this book and I would have loved to hear the ending of the stories of Christopher, Nora, Angela and Judy. Were they happy with the lots they had chosen in life?
Elizabeth Jane Howard has created a whole dynasty of Cazalets which I have got very involved with throughout the series. She is a master storyteller of the characters everyday lives making them very three dimensional and true to life. I was quite happy with how the book completed the series - it wasn't all "and they lived happily every after" but a fitting end to the story. I shall miss the characters and am sad that there isn't another book to follow the story further. An excellent conclusion to an excellent series.
on 22 January 2014
"Where ignorance is bliss tis a folly to be wise "they say.
Thats how I feel about this book .
Once I finished it I wished I'd left the Cazalet's in the late 1940's where there was hope and I could imagine them going along much as they always had.
I found this fifth instalment of the fabulous Cazalet's a dreary and quite depressing read.
Some of the characters seem to have had a total personality change, Archie and Simon for instance.
Nevile although he was a horrible child had some endearing traits the older Nevile was devoid of any of these and his storyline was quite frankly ridiculous
I really didnt want to read about the family being older and somewhat diminished, as they face death, infirmity and bankruptcy.
There was one death in particular we could have been spared
The writing wasn't as sharp of finely crafted as the previous four chronicles it was as though someone had written it, I found it courser and not at all like the great author I know so well.
I understand that Ms Howard was 90 years old when she wrote this and was very sad to hear of her death recently.
I felt in this book her heart just wasnt in it. Some reviewers commented on the inaccuracies in the timeline especially regarding Simon, this for me although annoying was not the book's biggest crime,
The whole book had a lack hope and I felt the family I had loved for so long with nothing much to look forward to.
I finished the book because one I had started it I had to finish, I think the Cazalets were not good in the 1950's and should have stayed where the were at the end of Casting Off
on 10 August 2014
I have enjoyed the Cazalet Chronicles and found most of the characters appealing, the children are especially delightful. The description of life in war time Britain is excellent, no mawkishness, just good, British stoicism.
However, I read this fifth novel thinking that the author would find an appropriate way to explain the relationship between Edward and his daughter Louise, particularly in the light of recent child abuse scandals. Instead the pair seemed to have reached a harmonious relationship which extended to lunch with Louise's lover and affectionate exchanges between father and daughter. Indeed, the role of villain appears to have passed emphatically on to Diana. Edward, an apparently reformed character, seems to get off the hook apart from a marriage to this disagreeable, greedy woman. I am sure that women affected by similar experiences to Louise's will find this distasteful and unjust.
Added to this the near miss of a romance between Neville and his half sister Juliet was unnecessary and later simply brushed aside.
If you are going to introduce the matter of incest into a story (twice in the Cazalet Chronicles) surely you have to deal with it, not leave it hanging in the air with no consequences for anyone.
These concerns and the errors in the narrative, dealt with in other reviews, make this an unsatisfactory conclusion to an otherwise absorbing read.
on 4 March 2014
Firstly, let me say that I loved the original four-book Cazalet saga. That's why I bought Book 5 and it's also why I've found it such a disappointment.
The first quarter seemed to re-tell the plot of the earlier novels unnecessarily - I can't imagine anyone who hasn't read the first four books would be interested in Book 5, so why bore the reader by going over the same ground? This links in with another problem I had with the fifth novel: Elizabeth Jane Howard seems to have lost her nerve. The earlier books were models of psychological insight, giving just enough information to convey the story, the characters' feelings, the era and the themes, without over-writing or explaining too much. She would move on from viewpoint to viewpoint with skill, verve and confidence, leaving it to the reader to fill in the gaps. In book 5, however, she seems to no longer do this - she fills in the gaps endlessly and in an often pedestrian manner. She has characters saying something and then feels the need to explain what they meant, as if the reader might not have got it. She loses the lightness of touch of the earlier novels and adds weight without depth.
I found the dialogue too, at times, rather inauthentic and dull, with some characters badly drawn (Teddy's Irish barmaid being a case in point). The children were unconvincing and twee, rather than delightfully comic as in the earlier novels, though I found Georgie more convincing than the others. The older characters generally retained their shape, though sometimes just became dull or else Howard seemed to forget them and they were barely mentioned.
In the earlier books, Howard used repetition of plot-lines in order to explore themes - for instance, the series of young women engaged in romantic liaisons of varying degrees of success with older men, from Edward's creepy molestation of his daughter to the touching romance between Archie and Clary. Many of these relationships revealed the exploitation of youth by unscrupulous older men, highlighting feminist issues perhaps - the number of exploitative men in the novels was extraordinary. However, the repetition by and large worked very well. However, in the fifth book, I felt the romantic plot-lines became repetitive in a boring way, in places almost Mills and Boonish, in others incredibly implausible (Neville and Juliet? Really?). I thought Louise was remarkably forgiving of her father!
There were several places where I almost decided to give up the fifth book but I stuck it out as a tribute to Elizabeth Jane Howard - the first four books are superb, and it is just sad really that she thought it wise to write a fifth so late in the day when her powers were waning. It isn't all bad however. I thought the description of the decline of the firm was masterful, and Rachel and Sid were well-drawn. But in the end it was lightweight, rather than light of touch, and heavy going.
Nine years on from the end of Casting Off: Cazalet Chronicles Book 4, All Change describes family coping with the decline of the Cazalets' wealth in post-war Britain. The children from The Light Years now have children of their own, and the future of Home Place is uncertain after the death of the Duchy. If you haven't read any of the other Cazalet Chronicles, then don't start here: go and read The Light Years: Cazalet Chronicles Book 1 and the rest, or you'll be lost in this enormous family. There are précis of the back story as each character is reintroduced, which will be helpful if it's a while since you've read the previous books, but I still found myself struggling to keep up with the names of the new children (though having the notes on the Cazalets to refer to will help). There was even a moment when I started to wonder if the author herself had forgotten who was who, but that was resolved later on. If you've read the rest, then you'll want to read this final chronicle. It is as enjoyable and fascinating as the others, following the threads of the different characters' lives. There was a moment towards the end that I thought was a little forced, however, and didn't quite fit with the general style of the chronicles. I felt the ending was less satisfactory and left more loose ends than that of Casting Off, but perhaps that's the point: the family's lives will go on, some happily, some less so, and a neat happy ending would probably have felt too contrived.
on 14 May 2014
This book is rather disappointing. I thoroughly enjoyed the other four in the series but this is of inferior literary quality. It is less well structured and leaves the reader feeling that the author was tired and eager to complete the book. The characterisation is below par in that there is little development that is not cliched. A series of short jerky chapters which presumably is intended to indicate pace simply comes over as superficial. This is furthered by the fact that the more interesting characters have died! Without doubt a book too far.