"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Passing Bells, Circles of Time and A Future Arrived: A Trilogy (Grevilles of Abingdon Pryory) by Philip Rock (TLC Book Tour - book review)

The Passing Bells
Author:  Phillip Rock
Published:  December 2012
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks (reissue edition)
Pages:  544

The guns of August are rumbling throughout Europe in the summer of 1914, but war has not yet touched Abingdon Pryory. Here, at the grand home of the Greville family, the parties, dances, and romances play on. Alexandra Greville embarks on her debutante season while brother Charles remains hopelessly in love with the beautiful, untitled Lydia Foxe, knowing that his father, the Earl of Stanmore, will never approve of the match. Downstairs the new servant, Ivy, struggles to adjust to the routines of the well-oiled household staff, as the arrival of American cousin Martin Rilke, a Chicago newspaperman, causes a stir.
But, ultimately, the Great War will not be denied, as what begins for the high-bred Grevilles as a glorious adventure soon takes its toll—shattering the household’s tranquillity, crumbling class barriers, and bringing its myriad horrors home.

Circles of Time
Author:  Phillip Rock
Published:  January 2013
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks (reissue edition)
Pages: 448

A generation has been lost on the Western Front. The dead have been buried, a harsh peace forged, and the howl of shells replaced by the wail of saxophones as the Jazz Age begins. But ghosts linger—that long-ago golden summer of 1914 tugging at the memory of Martin Rilke and his British cousins, the Grevilles.
From the countess to the chauffeur, the inhabitants of Abingdon Pryory seek to forget the past and adjust their lives to a new era in which old values, social codes, and sexual mores have been irretrievably swept away. Martin Rilke throws himself into reporting, discovering unsettling political currents, as Fenton Wood-Lacy faces exile in faraway army outposts. Back at Abingdon, Charles Greville shows signs of recovery from shell shock and Alexandra is caught up in an unlikely romance.Circles of Time captures the age as these strongly drawn characters experience it, unfolding against England’s most gracious manor house, the steamy nightclubs of London’s Soho, and the despair of Germany caught in the nightmare of anarchy and inflation. Lives are renewed, new loves found, and a future of peace and happiness is glimpsed—for the moment.

A Future Arrived
Author:  Phillip Rock
Published: February 2013
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks (reissue edition)
Pages: 480

The final installment of the saga of the Grevilles of Abingdon Pryory begins in the early 1930s, as the dizzy gaiety of the Jazz Age comes to a shattering end. What follows is a decade of change and uncertainty, as the younger generation, born during or just after the “war to end all wars,” comes of age.
American writer Martin Rilke has made his journalistic mark, earning worldwide fame with his radio broadcasts, and young Albert Thaxton seeks to follow in his footsteps as a foreign correspondent. Derek Ramsey, born only weeks after his father fell in France, and Colin Ross, a dashing Yankee, leave their schoolboy days behind and enter fighter pilot training as young men. The beautiful Wood-Lacy twins, Jennifer and Victoria, and their passionate younger sister, Kate, strive to forge independent paths, while learning to love—and to let go.
In their heady youth and bittersweet growth to adulthood, they are the future—but the shadows that touched the lives of the generation before are destined to reach out to their own.

My thoughts:

The trilogy:   Each book is lengthy with descriptive narrative that, if I were in the right state of mind, I would readily enjoy, but am finding it rather tedious.  The war scenes, which are at least one half of the first book, are interesting but go on far longer than I wanted to read of such. For me, the story on a whole is interesting and worth the read, but is has unenjoyable parts to it. The war, being the unenjoyable parts to the trilogy. 

Passing Bells is the first in the series and opens with a view of the British countryside, unspoiled and open ... beautiful.  We are introduced to the servants of the household, the proprietor and his family and a young cousin, a stranger in fact, who is welcomed to the family and society in Britain.  My favourite characters, the cousin Martin (the American journalist who comes to visit family but stays to cover the war) and Ivy (a young girl, the eldest in her family, working as a maid) are the most down to earth and most relatable.  The time spent on developing their characters, and their very personalities, endear them to the reader and we hope for a future for the two of them together.  When the war is announced and families separated as the young men head off to battle with Martin covering it from a journalist perspective, I found the story to be less people oriented and I began to lose interest as the lengthy battle consumed the pages.  (I guess I am just not so much of a reader of wars.)

Circle of Time presents the aftermath of World War I.  The carnage and debilitation of society in the wake of the war is evident as Philip Rock presents a birds eye view of a life post war, the tragic loss, the crushed soul of young Charles as he remains in an amnesiac state upon his return from the war.  There is so much loss and grief, particularly for Martin who, in the first chapter, bids a last farewell to Ivy, his deceased wife, and yet there is a hope.  Hope for a new beginning, for a return to life in a new land so to speak.  Not much remains the same, and it shouldn't.

A Future Arrived reminisces of the glory of Britain and society pre-war while recognizing an enormous change.  It is now the story of a new generation with a foreboding view of another war, perhaps the most tragic in history.  Adolf Hitler comes upon the scene and with him the knowledge that the war of the world of the previous generation may fail to compare with the plans for domination under a terrifying leader.  

For the lover of history, particularly war, these novels will breathe life into the very stories of old.  Of the fight for freedom, for land and man...this is evidenced herein as Philip Rock puts a face upon the era of the early 1900s-1940s.  While a comparison has been made between Downton Abbey and this trilogy, Philip Rock's novels share the perspective of the upper class while Downton Abbey shares the time period from the point of view of the "help."  We see an era where the lines of upper crust blur with the rest of society.  All suffer great loss and grief.  No man is untouched.  Herein lies a great truth.  We are all only people, we are born, we grieve, we have joy and we have loss.  Trials don't pick and choose.  Each one of us, to varying degrees, experiences love, joy, hope and sorrow.  This trilogy is such a story.

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  1. This sounds like an interesting series. I do enjoy HF and the story sounds well written. I have to say- I LOVE the covers! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. A very thorough review. I agree that some of it can be a bit tedious especially trying to get through all three books, but I do love how descriptive the author is--it puts me back in time.

  3. I think the history aspect of it would really suck me in. I can't wait to start the series!


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