Book Review: CLIFTON CHRONICLES, by Jeffrey Archer

The sixth book gets published in February next year, and a few chapters will be based in Bombay!

Alright, the above sentence would make no sense in general except for those following the Clifton Chronicles, by Jeffrey Archer.

There are five books of the Clifton Chronicles released so far starting from 2011, one each year. The series follows the life of a young, poor and a talented boy called Harry. His family is based in Bristol, he's never met his father, who he's told died in the War, and his mum works as a waitress for a living. His fate is intertwined with the high and mighty, the Barringtons, who're almost considered the first family of Bristol. Also, things are not as simple as they seem to be. Who is his real father? What was his mother's past?

The five books sequentially include:
1) Only Time Will Tell
2) The Sins of the Father
3) Best Kept Secret
4) Be Careful What You Wish For
5) Mightier Than the Sword


Only Time Will Tell: The book is set from 1920 to 1940, and begins with the introduction of Harry, and various other characters. Giles Barrington is Harry's best friend, and Emma is Giles' shy sister. The story telling is steady, and makes sure you don't lose interest at any point of time. Both the World Wars are involved in the storyline, and the book ends all of a sudden.  
Rating - 9/10
The Sins of the Father: The setting moves from Bristol to the USA. Emma Barrington continues to search for Harry, and her search leads her to New York. Lot of secrets are further revealed, and this book is a page turner.
Rating - 9/10
Best Kept Secret: The gen-next of the Clifton-Barrington family are introduced. Harry is a well known author, who writes mystery novels. Emma is into the Barrington family business, while her brother Giles, is into politics. Again, a page turner and the ending leaves you very very frustrated.
Rating - 9/10
Be Careful What You Wish For: Further new sets of characters are introduced, with the Binghams making their appearance. The family saga continues, Harry and Emma now have an adopted daughter as well, who's past is actually linked to the Barringtons. Lot of technical business deals and terms are introduced, and this is the book I didn't enjoy much. However, the ending more than makes up for the lack of pace in the book.
Rating - 7.5/10
Mightier Than the Sword: Harry being an established author, is now entrusted with a new responsibility. His sole aim now is to lend voice to a Russian interpretor and author, imprisoned in Siberia and barely alive. In the process, Harry's own life is in grave danger. Meanwhile, his son is a talented banker, and displays a streak of ambition, that turns out to be quite detrimental to his personal life. The book ends as usual, at a key juncture, leaving you waiting for the next book.

The first three books were the best so far. The series sort of loses track in the fourth, but bounces back with the fifth book. Each book ends with a cliffhanger ending, and can end up leaving one quite irritated. Especially for those following the series from the beginning, since the wait for the next book is on an average one year. What I like the most is the style of story telling, each chunk of the chapters dedicated to one character, with the time frame in mind. The second thing I like (hate?) is the ending of each book. It just raises so many questions in mind, and there are simply no answers to these. 
The style of narration is the same, the poised structure that is so typical of an Archer book. There are so many plots, mysteries, twists, that make each of the books so difficult to put down. Never once during any of the books did anything seem 'predictable'.

*Somehow the series has started becoming too vast, and too many new characters have diluted out the main theme. Plus it gets quite difficult to remember who's who, after a long gap.
*Too many business and stock related events may make it a little difficult for an average reader to understand what's going on (at least it was for me!).  
*I know the comparison isn't fair, but then the series simply doesn't have the Kane & Abel flair in it!

READ IT if you're an Archer fan, and you like his way of narration. Another option is to wait for all the seven books to be released (hopefully by 2017), and then read them all back to back. It's the wait for the next book that's the most painful part of following the Clifton Chronicles, or for that matter any book series.  

Cometh the Hour, is next in line, to be published in February, and has a few chapters based in Bombay, as Seb falls in love with an Indian girl. Considering Archer's association with India, I was almost expecting an Indian to make an appearance somewhere in the course of the series, and I wasn't disappointed. And the cover features the Gateway of India too! Now this bit has left me quite impatient for the next book to be released. 
And I brace myself saying, soon cometh the hour!

Snippet: Archer blogged about an incident where a 97-year old lady wrote to him asking him how the series finally ends, as she feared she wouldn't be around that long. The maverick that Archer is, he just said he too hopes he's around that long to complete Harry Clifton's saga!

(All pictures sourced from various links leading off from here, and here)


  1. gosh - reminds me of how less I read these days....
    thanks for sharing dear :-)

    1. Thank you so much Archana! Do take time out to finish this series off :)


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