Only Time Will Tell is the first book of the family saga Clifton Chronicles which consists of seven books in total including this one. This is the second work of Jeffery Archer that I have read after I loved Kane and Abel and I wasn’t disappointed.
The plot of the novel revolves around the protagonist Harry Clifton and it spans the time between the end of World War I and the beginning of the Second World War. The setting of the novel is in Bristol, England from 1919 – 1940. The protagonist is the character of Harry Clifton, a young boy destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle and work on the docks until he gets a new direction. Harry becomes friends with a dock worker Old Jack Tar who knew his father Arthur when he worked there. Harry is a gifted singer, which opens up new avenues for him. He gets into a good school on a scholarship and his future seems bright.
Harry’s family is poor and lives in difficult conditions but it gets better when his mother finds a job at a tea shop. During the years at school, Harry becomes close friends with Deakins and Giles Barrington, whose father, Hugo Barrington, despises Harry for reasons not known to anyone. Their sister Emma and Harry get along well and eventually fall in love. The real parentage of Harry is not known to him and only his mother and a few others know about it. His mother Masie, struggles a lot to make sure her son has everything he needs.
The narration of the novel is from the point of view of six main characters – Harry, his mother Masie, Emma, Giles, Hugo, and Old Jack Tar. The different character points of view thicken the plot and each of their internal struggles, plots, and secrets are revealed some of which were completely shocking as a reader. All the characters of the story are well sketched and grounded; their actions hold more meaning when their motivations are clear in their heads. Masie Clifton is an admirable character throughout the novel even if she takes questionable steps, she knows it is not right but she does it anyway to provide for her son.
The ending of the novel is a bit of a cliffhanger which is expected since it is the first book of the Clifton Chronicles which makes me want to dive into the next book as soon as possible. The twists and turns increase towards the end of the novel and make the novel more engaging. Some things are known to us as readers but the reaction of the characters to these situations is thoroughly enjoyable. I liked the pace of the novel, it doesn’t slow down in the between and stays engaging. The six narrators of the story make character motivations and their mindset clear and it made me understand each of these characters.
I wasn’t sure if I’ll like this book as much as Kane and Abel but I must say it comes pretty close. I read this book so quickly because I wanted to find out how it all unfolded. I can’t wait to start reading the next books in the Clifton Chronicles.
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