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4.2 out of 5 stars337
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 11 March 2013
I can't believe I hadn't read this delightful collection of four books telling the story of the Cazalets. I am nearing the end of the fourth one - " Casting Off" - and am wondering what to do with my reading time when I finish it. I can not recommend it highly enough. It is a fascinating history of a middle class family during the years of the second world war and the austerity afterwards and the characters really bring that period to life, especially to one who was born during that time..
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on 1 February 2013
This is a great book, and I would wholehearted recommend it. However it has been very badly 'translated' for Kindle. There are words missing, incorrect words, paragraphs running into one another. This happens on the odd occasion with other Kindle books, but the level of mistakes in this ebook is shocking. Bad Amazon
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on 5 November 2002
Not having been born until 1973, and growing up in another country, I can't say whether Elizabeth Jane Howard's fictitious account of the life and lives of an English family during WWII and beyond is historically accurate or not, but with this much detail, she must be writing either from her own experience or from extensive research. It certainly felt very real to me.
Told from the points of view of different members of this large, extended upper-class family and its household, The Light Years gives an account of English life in the lead up to the second world war. The author gives fine details of the running of the household inside the family's country manor, the social conditions of that time and the political situation as seen through the eyes of young, middle-aged and elderly, male and female, upper, middle and lower classes, providing a fantastic tapestry of life at that time.
All of this detail could have the potential to be dry and boring, but the characters are so beautifully and realistically drawn that the reader can't help but be drawn right inside the novel and feel a part of the family. These characters begin to affect the reader in a way that is rarely seen, and after finishing "The Light Years", I couldn't wait to begin the second instalment, "Marking Time".
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on 30 March 2010
if you do nothing else this year, buy the four books in the Cazalet Chronicles, they are absolutely fantastic - I deliberately tried to read the fourth and last one slowly because I didnt want it to end, but Jane Howard is such a good writer that I couldnt help myself. I have kept them and will read them again in a year or so, they are set to become "old friends" - definitely not a set that will be passed onto the PDSA shop (sorry PDSA)....
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on 15 June 2014
The book was recommended by a colleague, who has similar reading tastes and when I read the book description I thought that it was just my thing. However although the book was easy enough to read I kept wondering when the real story would start!. It felt like one very long introduction to all the characters and as for the ending, well what ending the book just stopped!! Had it had been a paper copy I would have suspected that somebody had ripped the pages out! I know there are 2 more books in the Cazalet series but I can't make my mind up if they'll be any better.A bit disappointing
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on 7 October 2001
I read this book following seeing some of the TV production recently. I found that it 'grabbed' me as soon as I started reading it and proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, so much so that I proceeded straight on to the next of the series, "Marking Time".
The book gives an excellent picture of life immediately pre-WWII and is an effective social statement of the state of the 'classes' at that time.
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on 3 February 2014
This was a bit dissapointing for me. The story is very light though all the little details about the many children may prove useful for those who go on to read other books of the chronical. Some characters developed well as the story progressed. Zoe was one such character who gradually gained credibility. Of the children Louise held my interest. It would be worth writing out the list of characters for reference before starting to read the order to know who each of the children belonged to.
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on 29 June 2008
This is the first book by Elizabeth Jane Howard that I have read and I loved every moment of it. The pace never slackens and I found myself wasting no opportunity to settle down and read some more. Although there are so many characters they are all so well drawn that they do not become confused. They are all likeable people, despite their flaws and foibles. What struck me most was that I actually cared about what happened to each and every one of them. The period details are not laboured but the atmosphere is unmistakeable. Can't wait for the sequel to be delivered to see what happens to the fascinating Cazalets next.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 December 2015
This is the first book in a series of volumes about the Cazalet family and it is obvious that the author intends the story to be much longer than just this one novel. For that reason this book was very much about setting the scene for readers and introducing them to the large family and their associates. For me this meant that, on occasion, the book dragged a bit. Nothing really dramatic happens and the story moves from one character to another telling their story and weaving them together into a bigger whole. I was gripped by the writing and the characters but there were still a few moments when I wanted to hurry things along a bit.

The story is set in the immediate pre-WW2 years in an established middle-class family of three generations. The author tells the story of each of these generations and quite a lot of the book is about the children/grandchildren. I didn't get confused between characters and who is related to whom but by the time I get to the next volume I will probably have forgotten everything I knew about their relationships !

The joy of this book is firstly in its evocation of a particular time and way of life The author does an excellent job of creating an appropriate atmosphere and of showing us about cultural norms rather than telling us. The second strength of the book is in the characterisations. The author is handling a large number of characters but she succeeds in making them each into individuals and in making them believable.

Nothing much happens here but the reading experience is still very enjoyable despite my wish that it was a bit shorter or more dramatic. The next book will, however, need to have a bit more action to keep me engaged with the series as a whole.
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on 29 April 2015
If you haven’t read this book [it is the first in a series of five], you are in for a treat. Elizabeth Jane Howard died last year at the age of 90 and this prompted me to buy ‘The Cazalet Chronicles’. I recently read them on holiday, back-to-back and know I will re-read them many more times.
This is a great family saga, a glimpse of upstairs and downstairs as World War Two threatens the Cazalet family. Over the course of these five books [my reviews of the others will follow soon] we see the changing social geography of England through the prism of this family, the changing lives of the women and servants, wartime privations, the threat to the family timber business as they face up to the reality of fear.
Oh how I gobbled up these novels. This, the first, introduces us to the family: the patriarch William and his wife The Duchy, their three sons – Hugh, Edward and Rupert, and their wives – and daughter Rachel. As a new war threatens, the hidden wounds of the Great War have not healed and there is no appetite for another. The family gathers at the Sussex house, Home Place, which is the hub of the action. It is the summer of 1937: Hitler has annexed Austria and has his eye of Czechoslovakia.
In these tense summer days at Home Place, we meet the family via the children. Louise, daughter of Edward, the second Cazalet son, is thirteen years old and wants to play the best Shakespearean roles, she starts with Hamlet. Her mother Viola, known as Villy, leads the life expected of her, as wife and mother. “She was not unhappy – it was just that she could have been much more.” One by one we are drawn into the lives of the children, their parents, of Duchy and the Brig, all the time knowing what they don’t: that in less than two years, the ‘peace with honour’ declared by Prime Minister Chamberlain is valueless.
Read more of my book reviews at
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