Last August I reviewed the audiobook version of British author Jeffrey Archer's "Only Time Will Tell," the first in a dramatic family saga set mainly in the U.K. That review, "First volume of The Clifton Chronicles will keep you on the edge of your seat," which I published Aug. 17, 2011, has since become my most popular post, according to my blog stats.
This August, Macmillan Audio kindly sent me an audiobook review copy of that book's sequel, "The Sins of the Father: A Novel," By Jeffrey Archer (10 hours/8 CDs, MacMillan Audio, March 15, 2012, Unabridged, $39.99). Read by voice actors Alex Jennings and Emilia Fox, the second novel in the Clifton Chronicles carries on with its cliffhangers and twists and turns.
As with the first book, I lost myself in the drama-filled story, which was enhanced by the nuanced male and female voices of various characters, portrayed by Jennings and Fox. I listed to most of the 10-hour recording on a long trip in July - it passed the time as I was driving 8+ hours on a roundtrip to western PA. And, when I had no more distance to cover but still a few discs left and, being hooked on the storyline, wanted to find out post haste what would happen in the novel's conclusion, I listened to the rest on my Sony Discman (a "relic" from the early 90s) during a power outage at my house.
The talented Fox is also featured on the first novel of the series, which aims to follow Harry Clifton over five volumes through age 100.
The print version of "Sins of the Father" was released by St. Martin's Press (hardcover, 352 pp., $27.99) on May 8. See the very brief U.S. trailer for the book.
While "Only Time Will Tell" spans from 1920 to the outbreak of World War II in 1940: the first 20 years of Harry Clifton's life, the second novel follows Clifton from 1940 to 1960.
As with the first novel in The Clifton Chronicles series, Archer ends "The Sins of the Father" - and, I think, all of the chapters therein - on a cliffhanger. It's a great ride and quite entertaining. You won't believe the trouble poor Harry gets into.
At the end of "Only Time Will Tell," Harry had just landed in New York and assumed the identity of a friend. He's almost immediately arrested for murder - one his friend is accused of committing.
The earnest young chap finds himself on the wrong end of a case of mistaken identity. After wrongly trusting an attorney who say's he's there to help Harry, but does anything but help him, Harry goes to prison - in America - for the other man's crime. He is unable to prove that he's not the accused, whose name is Tom Bradshaw. In the meantime, Emma Barrington, mother of Harry's child and presumably the love of his live (though she may actually be his half sister), embarks on her own trip to the U.S. to track down Harry, which isn't so easy as he's imprisoned under Bradshaw's name.
Emma is determined to find Harry, never believing him dead in a ship-sinking disaster has been reported by the authorities. The ever-resourceful Emma tracks down her Scottish aunt in Manhattan, who gives her shelter and support for a reeeaaaallllly long visit (How does one leave her 1-year-old child at home with the nanny for nearly a year?). Emma enlists the help of the local police, her cousin, and local businessmen. After several months, it's the threat of war that keeps Emma from returning home to England, to her young son Sebastian and the rest of her family.
Meanwhile, Harry's writing talents are exploited from behind bars. A shady fellow prisoner prmotes Harry's well-written journals (modeled after Archer's own "Prison Diary" series, perhaps) as his own and publishes them. Of course, the book - under another man's name - becomes a bestseller.
Harry's best friend (and Emma's brother) Giles enlists in the British forces and excels as a soldier. Despite his skills, he's captured and taken to a POW camp. There he learns German and stages a brave escape with another man, who happens to be a school chum.
Also, Harry's mum, a successful London restaurant manager and one of the stars of Archer's first novel in the series, finds herself having to choose between two men she seems to admire equally.
At the same time, Emma and Giles' dad (not a nice fellow) finds himself in hard times and proceeds to swindle just about everyone he knows to regain some of his wealth. He's bent on taking Harry down with him.
Told from the varying viewpoints of these characters, there's never a dull moment in "The Sins of the Father." Their shared history as well as the impending crush of World War II ties all the character's stories together.
Archer, rather a pro at this, propels the tale forward with twist after twist. The result is more of a soap opera than great literature. In any case, it's compelling. As with the first book, when "The Sins of the Father" ends - on a cliffhanger, of course - the reader (or listener, as the case may be) is already curious as to what will happen next.
I look forward to meeting 40-year-old Harry in the next novel and following him for another two decades.
Book summary from the author's website:
The Sins of the Father is the second book in Jeffrey Archer’s highly acclaimed The Clifton Chronicles, Archer’s most ambitious work in four decades as an international bestselling author.
Hot on the heels of last year’s launch of Only Time Will Tell, which stormed to the top of the bestsellers chart around the world, The Sins of the Father takes the reader on a breath-taking journey from the backstreets of Bristol to the boardrooms of Manhattan.
The book opens in New York, 1939. Harry Clifton, under the new identity of Tom Bradshaw, finds himself arrested for first degree murder. When Sefton Jelks, a top Manhattan lawyer, offers his services for nothing, penniless Harry has little choice but to accept his advice. After Harry is tried, found guilty and sentenced, Jelks mysteriously disappears, and the only way for him to prove his innocence is to reveal his true identity – something that he has sworn never to do in order to protect the woman he loves.
Meanwhile Emma Barrington, the young woman in question, travels to New York. She has left their son behind in England, having decided she’ll do whatever it takes to find the man she had hoped to marry – unwilling to believe that he died at sea. The only proof she has is a letter - a letter that has remained unopened and unread on a mantelpiece in Bristol for over a year, but the hand is unmistakeable.
In Jeffrey Archer’s epic novel, family loyalties are stretched to their very limits as secrets continue to unravel. The Sins of the Father bears all the characteristic twists of a classic Archer novel, and leaves readers wanting more.
According to Wikipedia, Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare (born April 1940) is an English author, convicted criminal, and former politician.
Jeffrey Archer was born in London, and educated at Oxford. He was elected to the Greater London Council, and, at age 29, he became Member of Parliament. After five years in the Commons and a promising political career ahead of him, he resigned from the House of Commons after suffering some financial problems surrounding a bad investment.
At age 34, Archer, pictured below, wrote his first novel, "Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less," which sold to 17 countries within a year, was made into a successful radio serial, and was later televised in 1990 by the BBC.
He went on to write numerous novels and short story collections, including "A Prisoner of Birth," "And Thereby Hangs a Tale," and "Kane and Abel."
|Jeffrey and Mary Archer|
Here is a March 2012 interview with Archer by The (London) Telegraph that may shed some light on his notoriously rigid writing requirements. The 71-year-old author reportedly writes all of his novels using a certain Pilot pen and a specific brand of pencil on a legal pad!
According to Archer's blog, in April 2012 he finished the third book in the Clifton Chronicles series, titles "Best Kept Secret" and is already at work on the fourth. The series' next installment is slated for publication in March 2013.
Check out Archer's website here.