By: Jeffrey Archer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 2011
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: August 2011
A great thing to happen for the summer reader - a new book by acclaimed author, Jeffrey Archer, that will tell readers about two families, the Cliftons and the Barringtons, brought together by fate and the friendship of two young boys. This book spans the years following the First World War and into the beginning of the Second, telling the story by writing chapters featuring each of the main characters.
This fantastic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920. When he was old enough to understand that he did not have a father, he was told that his father had died in the war. Arthur Clinton was a dock worker in Bristol, England and Harry never knew him, but he learns about life on the docks by going there from an early age with his Uncle Stan, who expects Harry to join him at the docks when he is out of school. But, an unexpected surprise awaits Harry as he is awarded a music scholarship to St. Bede's School. It seems that Harry has an exceptional singing voice and is a soloist at his parish church. So, Harry goes off to St. Bede's and makes friends with Giles Barrington, an extremely wealthy boy, and Deakins, an extremely intelligent boy. These three will go through some good and also some harrowing times together but remain friends throughout.
Another strong character, Maisie Clifton, is Harry's mother. You will read about the sacrifices that Maisie has made to benefit Harry in his quest for a higher education. She is very poor and a very hard worker, and is determined to see that Harry gets a good education. She has to take a waitress job at a local Tea Room and is noticed by the manager of a large hotel in the area. He approaches Maisie to work in the hotel restaurant and she is soon promoted to restaurant manager, and is able to help her son. She does well but there is definitely someone behind the scenes who is stabbing her in the back at every turn.
You will also be introduced to the very rich Barrington family, the grandfather and grandmother, who are lovely people, their son Hugo, who is Giles' father and who is also a very evil person, and Hugo's children, Giles and Emma, and the very strong emotions that the two children have toward Harry.
Finally, you will meet the people who are behind Harry one hundred percent. These are people who have been following Harry's progress along his way to success. You will meet these men and women that include the poor and lonely Old Jack Tar, who lives in an abandoned rail car at the shipyards; this recluse is one Harry comes to love. Old Jack, despite having virtually no money, makes sure that Harry has what he needs. And, there is the famous Captain Tarrant, winner of the prestigious Victorian Cross, the man who saved many of his friends during the course of the first world war. (A surprise in the making.) All these people are certainly going to react to the fact that the Second World War is about ready to begin when this book ends, and will affect the characters in different ways.
Jeffrey Archer is a masterful writer and readers will be taken on a journey that they won't soon forget.
Quill Says: Until the last page is turned, readers will sit transfixed while reading about these families. Not since Kane and Abel, another Archer blockbuster, has there been anything like it. Very unexpected twist and turns throughout lead to the next book in this series tentatively called: The Sins of the Father.