Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles #1) by Jeffrey Archer
Publication Date: September 1st 2011 (first published May 12th 2011)
Publisher: Pan Publishing
Read Date: July 6th 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction
Stars: ★★★★ / 5
The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the chilling words, ‘I was told that my father was killed in the war’. But it will be another 20 years before Harry discovers how his father really died, which will only lead him to question: who was his father?
Only Time Will Tell was interesting historical fiction and family saga that revolved around main character Harry Clifton, his life story from birth to childhood to love, a journey of son of dockworker from dock and streets to school, education, university and war. It was about family, friendship, money, power, struggle, misfortunes and tragedy. And as blurb says, uncovering the family mystery, finding out what really happened to Harry’s father or was he really his father?
After a long time I don’t have a clue how to write review! It’s not like the book was bad in fact opposite, it was simply amazing. But I don’t know from where should I start and how much should I tell without giving away much.
I will start with writing style, as I loved it most. It was different and uniquely told one story in different timeline by different perspective. It was beautifully narrated that hooked me from the very beginning. The plot was character driven that was basically was set between end of WWI and start of WWII. It was divided in sections, a different time periods from 1919 to 1933 and 1936 from the perspective of Harry Clifton, his mother Maisie, Hugo Barrington, his son – Giles and daughter – Emma, and Old Jack. Each characters told the story in same timeline until 1936, a major turning point of the story. Then it continued up to 1940 when Brittan got involved in WWII.
Prologue was interesting that said how Maisie married to her husband but she made a mistake before marriage which raised a question about Harry’s father from the very beginning.
I loved Harry’s Perspective, first few chapters, that told about his family’s condition, how he consistently asked about his father’s death, how he started doubting story his family told, his singing talent that motivated him to go to school, and how his journey started from a dockworker’s son to smart, educated young man. This portion was filled with friendship between Harry, Giles and Deakins. This trio was amazing. It was clear Giles was not cut from the same cloth. He was much nicer and better human than his father. Probably mother’s influence! I could see how Harry was turning out so smart, clever and better than what he might have been if he stayed at home or followed his uncle’s footsteps. I admired his courage and determination, walking against the stream of whispers and jealous eyes. He was wiser than his age, he understood her mother, what she was doing to pay his school fees.
Then came most touching part of the story and I must say I loved it more than all other perspectives, Maisie’s narration. Story was getting better and better from here. Plot picked up speed, there was lot of drama and emotions in this part. This tells about what happened to Harry’s father, Arthur, not the whole truth just revealed people who might have known what happened that night. Maisie’s struggle as single mother and attempt to get job, pay for her son’s school, her admirers and love, new venture, betrayal, people trying to destroy her, everything was brilliant. I had my guesses who was behind Maisie’s misfortunes but I wanted to know whys. I empathized with Maisie and as a mother I could feel what she was going through. After reading all about her I admired her and she was getting stronger and stronger. She was real inspirational figure in the story.
Hugo Barrington’s narration showed how low a person can go to preserve name, money and power. He was filled with lie, greed, arrogance, and ego. He was real coward who ran away from his responsibilities and to save his name and money he lead all characters to tragedy. Suspense about Harry’s father was good in this part. My wild imagination went lot ahead until it was revealed. It surprised me how this big truth could be buried so long.
I loved old Jack. He proved to be most important in both Harry and his mother’s life and so had his own separate section. This answered added another puzzled piece to how he managed to inspire and motivate Harry, how he helped Maisie. It also surprised me to know how influential he was. His principles, ethics and honesty was even more surprising. I didn’t expect him to speak up the truth at the last moment.
Emma and Harry’s relation was charming. It was not the strongest but turned the tables in the story. I liked how they remained faithful to each other even after knowing the worst truth about their family. Giles was also amazing supportive to their relationship and helped Harry even after disastrous revelation about Harry.
There were many other secondary characters, most were great, and some were unlikable but all affected Harry and Maisie’s life directly or indirectly. I loved the way all characters played their part, helped in growth of Harry and changed his fate entirely. I also loved the setting of dockyard, Bristol, hard times between two major wars of history, education system of the era. Concept was great. The family drama and suspense and characters journey was written flawlessly.
As the climax neared the drama became exciting. Climax was not unexpected but surprising. It changed the paths of all characters. I was not sure what Harry, Emma, and Giles will do about the fact, how other Barringtons will react and how it all will affect Maisie. It turned out brilliant. From climax to end everything was unpredictable. I didn’t like that cliff hanger at the end. Ah, but I’m eager to read next book to see what happened next.
It was little slow for me, especially in beginning. It picked up speed almost after 80 pages. loved different perspective in same timeline but at the same time it repeated small part in all of them as we have already read that part in first time. And that cliffhanger at the end. Was it really necessary!
Overall, it was enjoyable, really interesting, flawlessly written family saga with many great characters. I highly recommend this book to historical and literary fiction lovers.