The first book in the landmark Cazalet Chronicles, previously a BBC radio and TV series. With the onset of war, The Light Years reveals a privileged family facing uncertain times.
Elizabeth Jane Howard is the author of fourteen highly acclaimed novels, most recently Love All. The Cazalet Chronicles - The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion and Casting Off - have become established as modern classics and were adapted for a major BBC television series. In 2002 Macmillan published her autobiography, Slipstream. In that same year she was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
In her charming but unwieldy eighth novel, the author of Odd Girl Out and Getting It Right portrays three generations of an upper-class English family summering at their Sussex estate in 1937 and 1938. The daily concerns of the Cazalet patriarch, his four children, nine grandchildren, countless in-laws, servants and pets range from the mundane to the seriously significant: the children rescue their cat from a tree, the chauffeur drives too slowly, the adults discuss the prospect of war. The temptations of adultery and incest that lurk beneath the chitchat rarely threaten the comfortable routine. Howard's attempts at insightful characterization, suspenseful plot development and sweeping depiction of an era achieve only partial success, due to the sheer size of the cast and the continual introduction of subplots thereafter neglected. For hundreds of breezy but disappointingly ``light'' pages, Howard sets the stage for climactic events that never occur. The fan of sagas full of slice-of-life detail may find the book too short, while the lover of catharsis will feel it stops short of its goal. In either case, another installment is required. (Sept.)
In 1937 the three Cazelet brothers gather their respective families and head for the family manse in the heart of Sussex for their annual summer holiday. Howard is expert at creating detailed physical environments for her characters, habitats that often reveal just as much about the Cazelets as their words or actions do. The publisher compares The Light Years to Rosamund Pilcher's recent best seller The Shell Seekers (LJ 1/88), but the characters on the whole lack the passion, warmth, and depth of feeling of Pilcher's. Howard's family saga is well written, however; she has considerable literary talent. A sequel concentrating on the interesting scions of the Cazelet dynasty would be welcome. Recommended.-- Lydia Bur ruel Johnson, Mesa P.L., Ariz.
A family saga of the best kind . . . a must. * Tatler *
She is one of those novelists who shows, through her work, what the novel is for . . . She helps us to do the necessary thing - open our eyes and our hearts. -- Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
The Cazalets have earned an honoured place among the great saga families . . . rendered thrillingly three-dimensional by a master craftsman. * Sunday Telegraph *