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VINE VOICEon 24 October 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found the Cazalet novels via the Radio 4 adaptation - it went too slowly for me so I simply had to buy them for myself. I read the first four very quickly, and had no idea there was a fifth about to come out. When I heard that this volume "All Change" was about to be published I just had to get it.

So I am very pleased that the Vine programme enabled me to read it so quickly. This book is set in the 1950s and everyone is getting older. The young girls of the first book are respectable mothers, or living independently in London. The Duchy, the wonderful Matriarch dies at the very beginning of the book, and her own children need to face changes and their own ageing.
It is a wonderful read. You can settle in with the family like old friends, although not all of them reappear (especially Jessica and her children). It deals with ageing and dealing with those who are ageing or dying, in a wonderfully humane and truthful way. This includes the guilt felt when someone with dementia is put in a home, as they don't understand why, even though it is to an outsider obviously the best decision.

Overall it is another wonderful peek into the life of the Cazalet's. By then end there had been a lot of changes, and were hints of lots more changes to come. All kinds of difficulties and tragedies had been dealt with, but underneath is the comforting feeling that this family remains strong. All the time the books reflect the time they are set in, and you do get the feeling when period detail is dropped in (eg. one child gets "The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe" for Christmas) it is done by someone who was there.

I would be quite happy to read even more about this family. And will probably wonder about just how things will work out for them. Will Mrs T. like the plans? Will one of the boys get married or become a pilot? Just what happened next?
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on 29 November 2013
I re-read all 4 of the previous chronicles recently, having been reminded of them by the Radio 4 serialisation. I was therefore really looking forward to book 5. What a disappointment. I am now on page 300, waiting for something to happen. The characters are wooden, careworn and tired. The children are just repeats of their parents, rather than late 1950's kids - remember, rock and roll was making an appearance and there were HUGE changes afoot. None of that appears in this book. EJH puts a fine sentence together but it's not enough. She does an awful lot of short chapters about each set of characters, rather than melding them into a plot (which is non existent). Put your pen down, Ms Howard. The fire in your belly is no longer there. Well written but faintly boring. One definitely needs to keep referring to the family tree, printed inside the cover as it has become difficult to tell the characters apart....
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on 30 April 2014
The first four volumes have long been one of my favourite series, reread many times, and I was very excited to hear a new volume had been written. However I am disappointed with it to the extent that I wish I hadn't read it. It just somehow didn't ring true with what had gone before. The most major and glaring omission for me was Louise's child Sebastian - there is I think a one liner reference by a minor character to Louise having been married and had a child. Apart from that - zilch. Does she really never see him, speak to or of him or think of him? Apparently so, along with his grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.! Highly implausible. I actually thought he and his life and the potentially difficult relationship with his mother due to her apparent abandonment of him would be a feature of this book now that he would be a teenager. Apart from that, the Neville/Juliet thing is utterly ludicrous and I didn't find the Archie/Clary thing convincing either. Also the lack of any mention of characters that had featured fairly prominently before - Angela with her new life in America, Nora and Richard, the dreadful Zee etc. I would have been interested to hear what had happened to them. And why does Edward become such a wimp with Diana? I never understood this, it always seemed out of character. I suppose I found the whole thing far less convincing and quite depressing. Not a patch on what came before.
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on 28 November 2013
Having read all fof the previous 4 books in the Cazelet Chronicles I was really looking forward to this but I was a little disappointed.The book didn't seem to flow as well as the rest and there were inaccuracies in the tie-in with the other books. The book also finished rather abruptly and left a lot of issues unresolved. At the end there was one very glaring mistake as to the identity
of the child who was born at Home Place. There were some very moving parts in this book but the whole was a bit disappointing.
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on 13 April 2014
Like many of the reviewers here, I love the first four novels - I've read them over and over, and each time find myself transported straight into the Cazalet world.The characters are interesting and multi-faceted, they come vibrantly off the page, and the story lines are captivating and memorable. So, the excitement with which I first opened All Change was palpable. And I was so disappointed.
Suddenly my cherished characters have become wooden and dull, and that's if they're even mentioned more than once or twice in the whole novel. No Angela? Stella relegated to a few paragraphs? Christopher and Wills never glimpsed at all? The story is grinding slow and repetitive, punctuated by multiple descriptions of meals (and even the weather forecast at one point). Somebody cries on virtually every page. Jemima and Gerald are too good to be true, whilst Archie and Clary act completely out of character. The new generation of children are interchangeable and, frankly, boring. There are big holes in the plot (why does Polly introduce Gerald to Rachel at Home Place, near the end of the book? Surely she went to their wedding, at least...?) And as for the main Neville story line...ridiculous.
I finished All Change eventually, out of my love for the first four novels, and out of respect for Elizabeth Jane Howard, who is one of my favourite writers (The Beautiful Visit, in particular, is excellent.) But I definitely won't be re-reading it, and even writing this review has made me sad.
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on 18 November 2013
Having read all of EJH's output over the last 30 years I was keen to read this book. It's November, getting grey and cold outside, and the kindle version coupled with my new featherdown duvet made this a perfect choice. For the last couple of days I've read the book in comfort but felt the paradox of savouring and dissatisfaction.

What has always impressed me with her writing is the considered inner life of many of her characters. Clary and Polly were particular favourites, their relationship with each other finely described in its development. The characters in the four earlier books had depth; emotional undercurrents were explored, moral dilemmas described in detail, settings easily imagined. Another reviewer has likened her to Austen and I agree. It is a tale of relative manners and decency set within the social mores of the first half of the 20thC.

But, this final book skated on the skin of those well-drawn characters I had developed my own relationship with over so many years. I thought it would be delicious to be back in their company for awhile, but (sadly) they held very little for me; they had become bland, 2-dimensional and unengaging. They reminded me more of sketchy Downton characterisations and plot....(I'm not a fan).

The Woman's Hour dramatisations were pretty awful; somehow The Cazalet Chronicles don't really dramatise well and seem to become vacant echoes of the original rich symphony. I never understood the ridiculous cringeworthy piano used so repeatedly in the narration.... And I never understood why the BBC pulled the plug on their TV adaptation, which proved promising. Better than the ever-popular Downton. But it is in the writing - the beautiful writing - that EJH has excelled over the years. Sadly this book has not come up to the standard of the previous 4 in the quintet.

This book needs re-editing; I agree with another reviewer that the continuity is embarrassingly flawed and this adds to the overall dissatisfaction. No reference to Louise's 'experience' with her father and why this more than likely had a profound effect on her life. The careless references to previously traumatic plotlines became irritating - Rupert's relationship in France while he was missing casually thrown in at poor Clary! Did she know? So much reaction that would've been richly drawn in her early works were simply 'disappeared', I wondered why she has bothered to mention them in in the first place. Perhaps she has been influenced by the Julian Fellowes School of Writing and that's not a good thing for a writer who I likened to Austen.

I'm left glad to have read the book, but a little sad that in her own casting-off years she has lost so much of her former brilliance and attention to detail.
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VINE VOICEon 1 November 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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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.
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on 21 December 2016
I read all five books in succession and was riveted. She writes for, her heart to yours. It was pleasure and pain and textured with real characters that grew into real people. This deserves a re read and maybe even a series. This time of all the books. Wonderful,I feel quite bereft now it's finished and we have cast off!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 December 2014
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.
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