This book was sent to me by Pan Macmillan in exchange of a fair review
Jeffrey Archer launched the first part of the Harry Clifton chronicles in Bangalore. His reason being that the book will hit the black market in India the next day wherever he launched it in the world as he has so many fans here – so, why not simply begin here and make more money. I happened to be there – it was a great evening, he sure knows how to keep his audience engaged and grinning for hours together. And then I actually spoke to him. My well-thought out words were a whispered, ‘ I love your short stories.’ To which he very graciously gave a nod and his thanks. I choose to believe we had a conversation. So obviously, I feel obliged to read the whole series out of sheer loyalty before any other consideration.
One question someone in the audience asked him was, ‘why were none of his stories based in India’. According to the author he doesn’t write about India because he doesn’t know/understand the country. I thought that was an excellent answer. Half the people living in our own country don’t recognize what the other half think/believe most of the time, it would be too much to expect an outsider to get us without actually living here for a couple of years.
However, in this penultimate edition of the story, the cover shows a guy and a girl riding a scooter in front of the gateway of India. Finally Archer seems to have bowed down to the pressure from his Indian fans and waded into turbulent Indian waters. The plot is no doubt the absolute truth about the Indian mindset regarding caste and religion, and yet it leaves much to be desired. I almost wish he hadn’t brought the Clifton chronicle to India in this utterly Bollywood style.
In this novel Harry is busy writing, supporting his wife in all her endeavours, and trying to free a political prisoner from the USSR. Emma is busy looking after her company and dipping her feet into political waters (and being on first name basis with Margaret Thatcher – an almost forgotten legend now and a woman to be reckoned with in my childhood years). Their son Sebastian is busy trying to follow his heart and Emma’s brother Giles is looking for love and simultaneously committing political suicide. History has been woven expertly into the plot lines bringing not only the life of these individuals into focus but also the state of affairs in England and the entire world in the 70’s.
Family sagas are a dream for people who love to read complete series. Most bibliophiles would fall in that category, I reckon – I sure do. This novel certainly picked up steam after losing some of its charm in the previous installment. The most interesting bits were definitely Lady Virginia’s (Giles’ ex-wife) antics to raise money in order to sustain her glamorous lifestyle and the complicated new love story of Giles. Virginia was quite prominent in this series and I loved every moment of reading about her deviously thought-out strategies. The fact that she is not able to fool all the people all the time makes things that much more spicy.
It would certainly have been better if the author had wrapped up the series in fewer volumes, even thicker ones. Seven seems too long for a family saga that actually has no magic or crime associated with it. At times the novel reads like a newspaper report on current events or on a committee meeting. Also, Harry is appearing excessively bland to me as the series progresses, although he is the main protagonist. But then he has reached respectable middle age by now, so one would say he is actually behaving true to form.
The cliffhanger at the ending is almost as titillating as that in part one. One can’t do much now, but wait anxiously for the next installment to satisfy one’s curiosity. Jeffrey Archer has certainly delivered on most fronts in this book. Now, if only he would bring out a new short story collection ASAP I would be one truly happy camper.