Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
on 29 September 2011
I started off loving this book; a big book telling a big story, following one family through two world wars and beyond. The main characters are all named after each other; William, his son Billy, Billy's son Will, and finally Will's daughter Billie. This is the common thread, and gives the book its structure.
But while the novel began with energy and a really good story, I felt that as we travelled through the twentieth century and towards the millenium, it began to lose momentum. For me, the best part was undoubtedly that set during the wars, with William fighting in Gallipoli and Billy in the D Day Landings. But by the time we reached Will's story, I was beginning to flag, and towards the end I really had had enough. I found the characters at the start of the novel more interesting and their stories more absorbing than those that came afterwards, and while the writing is always good - in some places, brilliant - it wasn't enough to carry this reader through. This is a shame, because I started the book with high hopes, and for much of the novel, these hopes were more than fulfilled. But I think that in the end, the novel is simply too long.
One other niggle concerns the sinister character Sully, companion of William during WW1, who stalks family members for many years afterwards and causes at least one very unpleasant incident. Eventually, Sully simply fades out, and I felt that I had been led to expect his reappearance; some kind of denouement for his part in the story. This never came.
This is a novel I would still recommend for the quality of the writing as well as the first two thirds (or so)of the narrative, but my recomendation does come with the above caveats. Three-and-a-half stars.
A word of warning: the blurb on the back of my copy did include spoilers, so don't look at the back until you've read the book!