Thursday, September 22, 2011

Only Time Will Tell Begins the Clifton Chronicles with a Cliffhanger That Will Keep Readers Coming Back for More

Never has a book title been more accurate. We've been talking in my classes this week about titles, what they mean, and how they affect your feelings about a story. We did an activity in which the class read a single Raymond Carver short story, but with half reading it under the title "Small Things" and half reading it under the title "Mine."

After my hoax was discovered (they uncovered the truth when we began listing reasons why the titles fit each story), they then showed their opinions physically by standing on one side of the room or the other, depending on which title they felt was a better fit.

Jeffery Archer has plenty of writing under his belt, enough that a title is most likely a simple thing for him to choose. But Only Time Will Tell is particularly telling because it works on so many levels for this latest Archer novel. For one thing, it is a literal message for the reader.

Archer's latest work is the first in a planned five-part series, meaning that from the get-go the reader understands that much will not be decided in this first installment. Rather, the story is set up and characters are introduced. I am a fan of series novels, but not always of planned trilogies and the like. However, going into a read with that knowledge did cause me to allow a little more leeway. Usually, I like a plot that is wrapped up tightly at the end of a book. In this case, I will truly have to tune in to future publications in order to know what happens next. And I'm perfectly okay with that.

Archer's title also works because the characters in the book, like the reader, are also left hanging. As much of the plot is left open-ended, the characters' conflicts are not worked out. In fact, while some small issues are concluded, many more begin just as the book ends.

Only Time Will Tell is the story of Harry Clifton, birth up through his mid-twenties. Born in England to a working-class family, he often skips school in favor of visiting the docks where his uncle works or conversing with a neighborhood man called Old Jack. He has a gift, however, and that gift of a beautiful voice works in his favor and pushes him onward to better things. He begins to excel in schoolwork, and winds his way through various grammar and prep schools.

In the course of Harry's life as a schoolboy, we see him develop friendships with boys from all walks of life. We also learn much about his family's background. His mother, though uneducated, works hard in order to give Harry a better life than the life she had. His father, however, is a mystery that persists. Arthur Clifton disappeared when Harry was a boy, but Harry believes his father was killed in World War I, as that's all he's ever been told. Harry's mother questions whether or not her husband was actually Harry's father, as she had a one-night affair just before their wedding.

Through various voices -- Harry's, his mother's, and Old Jack's, just to name a few, Archer spins a tale that should delight his readers both old and new. Only Time Will Tell begins a saga that will, through the five books in the set, span more than a hundred years. The story is a bit melodramatic, but perfect for readers who love to devour a good plot. The novel has no lack of betrayal, secrets, and surprises.

Jeffery Archer is the author of fifteen novels and a wide array of short stories, as well as plays and children's stories. My two favorites are As the Crow Flies and Sons of Fortune, stories which also span large periods of time and are also family sagas.

1 comment:

  1. Its definitely the best book I have ever read. Definite page turner. Well connected and Superb . Every character is interesting especially Old Jack and Emma. Of course Harry Clifton. You cannot predict anything what about the next episode, that's the BEST part of the book.
    Enjoy guys!!!



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