Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Circles of Time by Phillip Rock

Circles of Time by Phillip Rock
Published by William Morrow ISBN 978-0-06-222933-5
Trade paperback, $14.99, 425 pages

For fans of Downton Abbey going through withdrawal, the rerelease of Phillip Rock's Abingdon Pryory trilogy is a welcome relief. The first novel, The Passing Bells, introduced us to the Greville family, owners of Abingdon Pryory, which is very similar to Downton. Sir Anthony has the title and his German-American wife Hannah has the money.

The first novel took us deep into WWI- the politics of war, the horrors of the fighting, the loss of vibrant young men and women. The second novel, Circles of Time, deals with the aftermath of the war, both personally and nationally.

Charles Greville is suffering from post-traumatic stress, as well as the effects of a tragedy he caused. Charles begins the novel living in a mental hospital and his family fears there may be no reaching him.

Charles' sister Alexandra is back home after losing her doctor husband to a heart attack. She brings their young son Colin back to Abingdon, but she too is lost in a cloud of sadness.

Jamie Ross is the Greville's former chauffeur who worked for a tank manufacturer during the war. Ross  moved to America, started his own company building airplane engines and became wealthy. He returns to England on business and befriends Colin and Alexandra.

American cousin Martin lost his wife Ivy during the war and has thrown himself into his work as a journalist. He has written articles on how generals made bad decisions during the war that cost many British men their lives needlessly, and his views are riling feathers.

The first novel had more of a sense of urgency and drama to it because of the war. This second novel deals with the aftermath of the war on its participants and the society at large. So many changes came to  Britain; the rigid class system was loosened. People from the working class, like Jamie, were able to use their skills and knowledge to advance their lot, something unheard of before the war.

The war also brought changes to the ruling class. Sir Anthony came to accept that his sons would not follow the career paths he laid out for them; they would follow their own ambitions and dreams. He even came to accept the path that Alexandra chooses to follow much more readily that the usually more practical Hannah. For goodness sake, Sir Anthony is even driving his own car by the end of the story!

One of the more interesting sections of the novel concerns the rise of the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. Martin returns to Germany, where he finds that the monetary reparations that Britain and France have imposed on Germany is impoverishing that country.

The people are starving, inflation is outrageous and certain politicians are exploiting this to further their cause. Martin uncovers information that an assassination is being planned and he tries to stop it. His German cousins are involved in this and he even meets Hitler at his family's home.

History buffs will once again be satisfied with this part of the story. We see how certain people in Britain did not want another war and were willing to ignore the rumblings of trouble in Germany. The generals were reluctant to face their culpability in the slaughters that occurred overseas and still do not want to modernize their equipment or strategy to deal with another possible looming war.

The last novel, Future Arrived, deals with the storm clouds of another war and the next generation's coming of age. I'm looking forward to continuing on this journey.

rating 4 of 5

My review of The Passing Bells  is here.
There is a read along and discussion of these novels at Book Club Girl here.


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