All Change is number 5 and the final book in the Cazalet chronicles, a saga about an English family from 1937 to 1958.
The first four books were covered the period from 1937 to just after the war and unlike most sagas about the war years focused on family and people rather than the big events. They were hugely popular, deservedly so, I read Light Years, the first in the series and promptly ordered the next three and all four books charmed me so much that I'm determined to read them again when I've forgotten enough of the details.
All Change, which starts in 1956, was written nearly 20 years after Casting Off, number 4, and there lies the problem I think. I don't know whether it was the fact that Elizabeth Jane Howard was getting on for 90 when she wrote it but it seems tired; the characters are slightly one-dimensional, there's quite a lot of repetition and it definitely lacks a certain lightness of touch and naunce. For instance Diana, Edward's wife, doesn't have a single redeeming feature and so when her name crops up you get a 'here we go again' feeling because you know that whatever she does is going to be awful.
That's not to say that the book is all bad, it isn't, I rather enjoyed it in fact, but I kept on thinking it should have been a whole lot more, and it really doesn't bear up to the previous four books in the series. Those I recommend whole-heartedly, this one is for those who want to continue their acquaintance with the Cazalets and aren't expecting too much. That way you won't be disappointed.
I recently discovered the author Elizabeth Jane Howard and read what I think is her latest book entitled, "Love All". I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found Howard's writing beautifully graceful and elegant. The book was filled with a rich cast of very believable characters. I was particularly pleased to come across her writing as I believe that she has been writing for the past fifty years. Can anyone recommend any of her other books as I would love to read more of her writing.
Actually four separate books. But as they form a series about the Cazalet family from the late 1930s through the Second World War until the late 1940s.
The Light Years, book one of the series starts in 1937 and introduces the family. It follows them through summer holidays in Sussex, build up to and fears about the war and ends with Chamberlain's return from Munich and his "Peace with Honour".
Marking Time carries the story through from September 1939 until winter 1941.
I read The Light Years last year and enjoyed it so much that I started Marking Time almost immediately after but for some reason I put it down and didn't pick it up again until this week. The stories are very well told and the characters well developed. My only criticism is that the pacing good be a bit faster.
The books are split into different sections which either tell the story from one of the characters' perspective (but always in the third person) or as a regular novel where no one character is prominent. This works very well and is a good way of moving the story on in time.
The two concluding books in the series are:
Confusion covering March 1942 - May 1945 and Casting Off July 1945 - Summer 1947.
Something In Disguise is a darkly comic novel, described elsewhere as "A love story with a hint of the macabre". More than a hint, I'd say.
May's second marriage, to Herbert, is turning out to be a terrible mistake. The Colonel had pressured her into spending the money inherited from her first husband on a large, gloomy house as their married home. Her step-daughter Alice has run the house for them, taking charge of the domestic chores and managing the tiny budget that her father allows - but Alice is getting married as the book opens.
May's own children by her first marriage cannot abide their stepfather. Oliver is already ensconced, rent-free, in a London flat also belonging to his mother.
During Alice's wedding celebrations Oliver persuades his sister Elizabeth to pack her bags and return with him to London and share the flat, leaving May alone with the Colonel - who expects her to take over Alice's chores and continue to run the huge house just as efficiently and frugally as before.
Elizabeth quickly finds herself a job with an agency, cooking gourmet meals in people's homes and, in double quick time, a lover. The lover is much older, incredibly rich, and besotted. Their love story is the romantic high point of the book. from then on, everything starts to fall apart.
The lover has a jealous daughter, Alice's marriage hits some rocks, May's health deteriorates and the Colonel's true nature is gradually revealed to the reader.
Eventually disaster befalls practically everyone in the book - which in one case was a bit of a shock.
I enjoyed it very much, although it is quite old fashioned. May and Herbert are a very 'fifties' couple, and Elizabeth's leap into the sixties when she moves in with her brother was quite breathtaking.
I think my favourite character was Claude, the cat - who has a prominent and important part to play in the story.
Something In Disguise was made into a six-part miniseries for TV in 1982, which I missed (surprisingly, as Anton Rodgers was in the cast, and I like him).
From the Amazon review by Barry Forshaw
I read this book back in 2000, and found it most enjoyble. I recognise the comparion with William Trevor in the passages concerning Henry, especially in the slow uncovering of his darker side. Howard's treatment of Daisy and her friends, however, was less impressive - just a bit clichéd.