Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives unravelling in the 1950s, 1 Nov 2013
This review is from: All Change (Cazalet Chronicles) (Hardcover)
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At the end of Casting Off, the previous novel, things were tied up neatly - in some cases too neatly. Now we are in the 1950s and everything is rather precarious. The title is apposite; the world is moving on after the war. There is mention of Britain's very first motorway, a change to the law against homosexuality, and women in the House of Lords.

One of the interesting things about EJH's novels is the amount of social history she includes; and here, as usual, are details of food, clothing, money and other details of daily life. Someone is greatly helped by the new drug, penicillin, Clary is worried by the cost of a shoulder of lamb (13 shillings) when she is earning 3 a week proof-reading, and Elizabeth David is revolutionising English food with garlic.

EJH is always very original with descriptions. A baby with a bald patch and long hair at the back is described by his mother as being in `the unsuccessful-composer stage,' and someone with a hangover has a mouth `like a hot fitted carpet.' A pair of slippers is described as looking like old broad beans - this simile has occurred twice before in her works, but I think that can be forgiven.

She sometimes includes intriguing descriptions of plays. I have often wondered about and tried to imagine Emmanuel Joyce's plays in The Sea Change - they sound completely unworkable yet are tremendously successful, but Clary's play in All Change is far easier to imagine.

Occasionally I felt that there was a tiny bit too much exposition, reminding us of what happened in the previous novels, but perhaps this is necessary, certainly for anyone who hasn't read the previous ones.

Parts of the novel are really rather sad, as things go wrong, people are disappointed and disillusioned, characters become older and in some cases ill. The ending is certainly elegiac in tone, though there's a suggestion of a new beginning for one of the main characters. The very end reminded me of the last sentence of Elizabeth Jenkins' The Tortoise and the Hare: `There is a very great deal to be done,' though I have a feeling that this character will simply be repeating the role she's always played.

There is a nod towards Chekhov as well; after all, Cazalet's is a timber firm.
Anyone who has liked the previous novels in the series will not be disappointed.
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P. Kendell
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Location: Wokingham, England

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