If you are a voracious reader like I am then you've grown up on Jeffrey Archer's books after graduating from Enid Blyton's and Hardy Boys. From his first book - Not a penny more Not a penny less - published in 1976, Lord Jeffrey Archer has enthralled readers with his stories based in England and US.
"Only Time Will Tell" is touted to be his most ambitious work till date spanning 100 years in the life of Harry Clifton from 1920 to 2020, called the Clifton Chronicles. There are five books in the Clifton chronicles, each dealing with 20 years, with "Only Time Will Tell" covering 1920 t0 1940. It introduces us to Harry Clifton in his early years accompanying his uncle Stan to the dockyards. Born to Maisie and Arthur Clifton he is given to understand that his father died in the war. Although he suspects that this might not be the case its only later that he gets to know the horrible truth about the death of his 'father' or was Arthur his father at all? Harry's voice turns out to be the ticket out of the dockyards with the backing of set of people - some obvious, some hidden.
Harry's mother is the epitome of the Bollywood mother - doing everything to make sure that her son gets better education to get a better life, from working as a waitress to a manager in a small restaurant, a manager in a large hotel to heading her own restuarant and finally to being a bar girl. Its a great character that makes you realise what a woman can accomplish and be willing to do for her convictions. Then there are the teachers who work with Harry to ensure that he shines. But the best character of the whole book has to be Old Jack Tarr, an old man who lives in a railway coach in the dockyard who becomes Harry's mentor and a father figure. Its a character that I could just visualise Johny Depp in. And then there are Harry's best friends who stand by him in thick and thin - the rich brat Giles Barrington and Deakins, the scholar. You just know that there is more to come from this friendship in the next few books. The only character and storyline that I was uncomfortable with was the love affair between Harry and Emma Barrington which you will discover when you read the book. I am not sure what Lord Archer is tyring to say with this duo.
Jeffrey Archer adopts the writing style that he first tried in 'As the crow flies' - switching between the different character's point of view with each set being the view of the story from the character's perspective. Each character takes the story forward in their own perception and it makes brilliant reading. It introduces you to the mind of different characters rather than hearing everything from the protagonist's point of view. I love this style and admire Lord Archer for it.
The book is unputdownable when you start. It has enough twists and turns to ensure that you want to read it at one sitting. There are parts where it slows down but then Lord Archer introduces a twist that makes you sit up and turn the pages hurriedly. There are definitely predictable parts to the book that gives you sense of deja-vu if you have read enough of Jeffrey Archer's books. There is the expected rich family, poor family interaction. There are the requisite castles and shanties. There are the shocks and awws. But then this is a Jeffrey Archer book through and through.
It ends at a point where you wish that the second book was in your hand and you could start it. I can't wait for the next one to come out.
I would give it a 4/5 only because of that 'uncomfortable' relationship and for ending it at a point that hurts you because you have to wait for another year or more to read what happens next in the life of Harry Clifton!
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