Jeffrey Archer

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Jeffrey Archer

Post  eddie on Wed May 18, 2011 7:28 am

Digested read: Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer
Macmillan, £18.99

John Crace guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 May 2011 21.30 BST


Illustration for the Guardian by Neal Fox

Maisie Clifton 1919: I had always planned to lose my virginity to fiance Arthur Clifton in Weston-super-Mare, under the blue plaque that said "Jeffrey Archer lived here". But then he got drunk in the pub and another man I recognised came along and I thought,"Why not?" As you do. I got pregnant, but I didn't think it would matter as I was marrying Arthur the following month.

Harry Clifton 1920-33: We've all been told to write the first part of our chapters in the first person and in a different font. None of us thinks it adds anything to the story but Jeff insists it's a brilliant literary device.

Harry was a working-class lad with a heart of gold and his working-class Mum worked all hours in Mrs Tilly's teashop to feed him. When he was small, he aspired to nothing more than a job in Barrington's shipyard where his father had once worked, but then he met Old Jack Tar who told him he was very clever and had a nice singing voice, so he won a choral scholarship to St Bede's. There he was bullied by everyone except Giles Barrington, the nice-but-dim son of the shipyard owner who befriended him, though Giles's father hated Harry on sight. For no apparent reason, Giles started shoplifting. Harry put everything back to protect him, but was blamed for it. Luckily, Giles owned up, so Harry could go to Bristol grammar school after all.

Maisie Clifton 1920-36: I had always suspected the wealthy baddy, Hugo Barrington was Harry's father and had mysteriously killed Arthur two years later, but I couldn't prove it.

Maisie worked long and hard at Mrs Tilly's teashop to make ends meet, but you already know that, though I'm afraid you're going to have to get used to a lot of repetition in these parallel narratives. Maisie eventually bought the shop and after a lot of hard work, it made a profit. Then it burned down and she had to give nearly all the insurance money to Hugo Barrington who had, unknown to her, put up capital, so she was broke again. But she vowed to do anything she could to pay Harry's school fees.

Hugo Barrington 1921-36: I've always been a bad egg and when I saw that slut Maisie we both understood I had droit de seigneur. I couldn't help it that her husband was killed. Honest.

It had been Hugo's idea to expand the business into shipbuilding and the first project was losing money. So when Hugo heard that Arthur Clifton was trapped working inside, he decided to let him die there to save the bother of opening the hull. Obviously no one thought of opening the hull to look for Arthur, because in Jeffworld the Barringtons could fix everything. Since then Hugo had done everything he could to make sure his illegitimate son, Harry, never inherited his fortune.

Old Jack Tar 1925-36: I'm the mysterious sage who turns up in all Jeff's books. Like Jeff, I won the VC and have secretly helped everyone in the world, but I'm not that important to the story.

Old Jack Tar was an absurd character so no reader took him seriously.

Giles Barrington 1936-8: I'm hoping to go up to Oxford to play cricket with Jeff if my best friend Harry can pull off a few clever wheezes to get me in.

Giles had nothing else to say.

Emma Barrington 1932-9: I've loved Harry ever since I first met him when he was four and Giles brought him to our palace. Daddy hated him though, but now we're getting married.

It was in Italy that Emma decided to surrender her virginity to Harry. "I can't," he had said, "my mother is working as a prostitute." "I don't mind," Emma had gasped, "she's only doing it to pay for you to go to Oxford." Several weeks later the cathedral was full as Harry and Emma were about to take their vows. Maisie and Hugo were completely untroubled by the fact that the couple were probably half-brother and sister as they were both colour-blind like all the Barringtons, and it was Old Jack Tar who had the wedding halted.

Harry Clifton 1939-40: I didn't really care about being closely related to Emma but it seemed good form to give us both a bit of space till the brouhaha died down, so I joined the navy.

On the very first day of the war, Harry's ship was sunk. Everyone but Harry was killed and when he was picked up by an American boat he decided it was obviously a good idea to switch identity with one of the Americans who had been killed. "I'm Bradshaw," Harry announced. "Then we're arresting you," the authorities replied, "for the murder of the English language."


Digested read, digested: There's worse to come.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

eddie
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Re: Jeffrey Archer

Post  eddie on Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:34 pm

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer – review

By Jane Housham

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 18 October 2011 10.20 BST


Only Time Will Tell
by Jeffrey Archer

It's good to test a cliché with the litmus paper of experience. Here the cliché is that Jeffrey Archer writes terrible novels. Harry Clifton is a poor boy who, by dint of a beautiful voice, wins a place at a posh school, but the path to great fortune is strewn with obstacles – obstacles overcome with about as much tension as old knicker elastic. Revisiting the same events from the viewpoint of different characters makes for a repetitive plot, while its suffocatingly neat coincidences deprive the book of air. Why does there have to be a merry old sage who knows everything and everyone? He is like an avatar of the novelist himself. What is the appeal for Archer's legions of fans? His books really are Enid Blyton for grown-ups, and in this book, set mostly in the 1930s, the frequent references to prices in pennies make it seem even more of a pocket-money world. Archer's writing has a forensic bent, and as the characters take turns to present their version of events they often sound as if they're in the dock. In the case of Archer himself, I find him guilty as charged: this is a truly terrible novel.

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Re: Jeffrey Archer

Post  eddie on Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:22 am

Jeffrey Archer's top 10 romans-fleuves

From Hornblower to the Smiley books to the Forsyte Saga, here are 10 examples of good old-fashioned multi-volume storytelling

Jeffrey Archer

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 March 2012 11.32 GMT


Reconnaissance man … Gary Oldman as George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson's 2011 film of John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Roman-fleuve sounds a very French sort of thing. Britannica defines it as "a series of novels, each one complete in itself, that deals with an era of national life, or successive generations of a family". There are of course French examples, but the novels I've chosen are all English, with the kind of solid storytelling and unforgettable characters that inspire me.


The Sins of the Father
by Jeffrey Archer

And I can't talk about romans-fleuves, without mentioning my own five-book series, The Clifton Chronicles. The first book, Only Time Will Tell, opens in 1920 and takes Harry Clifton, a docker's son from the backstreets of Bristol, through to Oxford University, after he wins a scholarship because of his magnificent singing voice. He meets Emma at the age of nine, and she decides they will be married. And although, years later, they reach the church, the marriage never takes place. Book two, The Sins of the Father (published this week), picks up the Clifton and Barrington family saga and takes Harry and Giles through to the end of the second world war, when they have to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.

1. The Palliser novels by Anthony Trollope

The Oxford Companion to English Literature tells me that "Trollope established the novel sequence in English fiction". Many would choose his Barsetshire novels for a survey of this sort, but I've preferred the six Palliser novels because the Palace of Westminster is more to my taste than the cathedral close. A large cast of characters is common to all six novels, but Trollope ensures that each can be enjoyed on its own. Trollope stood unsuccessfully for parliament and did not enjoy the experience – and he uses this first-hand knowledge with great verve.

2. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga was the greatest success of Galsworthy's career, and largely responsible for the exceptional honours he received – among them the Nobel prize for literature in 1932 and the Order of Merit in 1929. Much of the social detail has dated, and the passing of time has made some of his characters' concerns less immediate, but the characters themselves are recognisable and compelling, and Galsworthy still hits his targets – materialism, selfishness, insensitivity, possessiveness – with force and accuracy. And the first mini-series set new standards for television drama.

3. The Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh

Recognisably based on some of the author's own experiences in the second world war, this trilogy has at its centre the figure of Guy Crouchback, an upper-class English Catholic in his 30s. The failure of his marriage and a general weariness with life disposes him to see war as a noble thing and a welcome opportunity to do something worthwhile with himself. Over the three novels, Waugh deftly strips him of this illusion in ways that are tragic, touching and savagely funny. Probably the best thing in English literature to be inspired by the second world war.

4. Strangers and Brothers by CP Snow

The 11 novels that make up Strangers and Brothers appeared between 1940 and 1970, and trace the career of Lewis Eliot, a barrister, who progresses from provincial origins to positions of influence in national life; this progression to some extent mirrors Snow's own career. Perhaps the most successful of the novels are The Masters, a well-informed account of the election of a new head of a Cambridge college, and The Affair, about a scientific scandal. The title of one of the novels introduced a useful phrase into the language: "the corridors of power". Together, the sequence presents a vivid portrait of British academic, political and public life. Snow was that rare thing, a scientist and novelist.

5. The Hornblower novels by CS Forester

These 11 magnificent novels trace the naval career of Horatio Hornblower, from teenage beginnings to his appointment as admiral and award of a peerage. Along the way, Forester's mastery of his subject tells us much about British history and society in the 18th and 19th centuries. Hornblower's character is plausibly developed, and Forester's handling of the war scenes is skilful and exciting. Like the work of all great storytellers, it transfers well to the screen.

6. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

Twelve novels make up A Dance to the Music of Time, probably the most ambitious scheme in postwar English writing. Through the eyes of the narrator, Nicholas Jenkins, we see the English upper-class and bohemian life as it was lived by a generation growing up in the shadow of the great war and then grappling with the horrors of another conflict and the profound social changes of a postwar world: the years covered range from the 1920s to the 1970s. Powell's characterisation and dialogue are deft, his eye for detail is sharp, and he is often very funny, but in truth I found it quite a struggle.

7. The Swann saga by RF Delderfield

Delderfield was a particularly skilful writer of multi-volume sequences. The three-book A Horseman Riding By was a great success in the 1960s, and he followed it between 1970 and 1973 with the three volumes of the "Swann saga": God Is an Englishman, Theirs Was the Kingdom and Give Us This Day. The story of the Swann family and their haulage business runs from the latter half of the 19th century into the early 20th, and the pace never flags.

8. The Smiley trilogy by John le Carré

In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People, Le Carré achieves a perfect blend between the novel of manners and the sophisticated spy story. Future generations will be able to learn all they need to know about the attitudes and obsessions of a certain part of British society in the 1960s and 1970s from these novels. At the centre stands the unforgettable character of George Smiley – decent, intelligent, thoughtful, relentless, self-questioning – who uncovers a mole in the secret service, attempts to restore the service's prestige and takes on the great Soviet spymaster Karla. When it comes to spies, Le Carré has no equal.

9. The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott

You could fill a good few shelves with novels concerned with the relationship between Britain and India, but not many would come close to Paul Scott's achievement. Covering a fairly short time-span (the rape that is the key event in the first novel takes place in 1942, and the series ends only five years later, with the partition of India in 1947), Scott nevertheless probes deeply into his story's conflicts of cultures and loyalties. Ronald Merrick, presented by Scott as an epitome of what was wrong with British rule in India, is a memorable villain, but generally Scott's treatment of his characters is insightful and even-handed.

10. The Clayhanger novels by Arnold Bennett

Bennett was a contemporary of Galsworthy, and the four novels that make up his Clayhanger series were published between 1910 and 1918, at the same time as the Forstye Saga was appearing. Bennett's main literary inspiration was the writing of French realists such as Zola and Balzac, but nothing could be more English than the industrial Staffordshire setting of the Clayhanger novels. They are rich in memorable characters but the principal ones are Darius Clayhanger, a domineering self-made man; his son Edwin, whose ambition to become an architect is frustrated by his father; and Hilda Lessways, whom Edwin loves and who becomes the innocent victim of a bigamous marriage. Good old-fashioned storytelling.

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