When I saw Jeffery Archer’s new book on the stands which was already running as a bestseller, I didn’t think much and decided to buy the book. I glanced at the back cover and read the summary — which said that it was about a boy uncovering the truth of how his father really died and that the set-up was in the World War II era — a reason good enough for me to dig deep in the book.
The story revolves around Harry Clifton, from his childhood till he goes to Oxford to pursue his under graduation. Harry grows up in the backdrop of docks as his uncle (his mother’s brother) works at the docks. His family is poor and can barely manage 3 meals per day. This is obvious when the book says that Harry was only allowed to lick the porridge bowl that his Uncle Stan had just finished. His mother decides to start working and ultimately gets job at a small tea-shop. Harry manages to finish school but not after he sneaks out of school regularly to the docks to make a new friend — Old Jack Tar, who lives in a discarded railway carriage. Harry’s exceptional voice and talent for singing takes him to St Bede’s School, a school for children of rich parents. The schooling years sees his growing friendship with Deakins and Giles Barrington, whose father, Hugo Barrington, despises Harry for reasons not known to anyone. The plot thickens as we see Harry’s single mother struggle to make ends meet; Hugo Barrington behaving more strangely as he realizes that his daughter, Emma has fallen in love with Harry; as the past of Old Jack Tar is revealed; as signs of outburst of WW II are becoming more obvious giving doubts in the mind of all the young boys — whether they would even complete graduation.
The story is broadly divided into 6 parts, each part dedicated to each of the main characters who have a hand in taking the story forward. Each portion of the story is told from each character’s point of view (namely, Harry Clifton, his mother; Masie Clifton, Emma Barrington, Giles Barrington, Hugo Barrington & Old Jack Tar) and I was shocked at the secrets of each character, games and deceit. The story brings victory and disappointment together at different points of time. The friendship of Harry Clifton and Old Jack Tar is touching. The latter turns out to be a man of virtues and values and a friend everyone craves for.
One of my favourite characters in the story is Masie Clifton. Though she does resort to not-so-correct means to provide Harry his education, she remains a woman of admiration and substance. She struggles to get work (no one gives her work at the docks when she reveals her complete name) in an era when women weren’t supposed to be going out of their homes to work. Though uneducated herself and a single mother, she manages to nurture Harry’s natural talent and flair for music and language and sees to it that he gets the best. Hard-working, determined and strong, this character impresses us.
The last bit of the book sees many twists and turns and finishes at a point when the readers still want to read more. No wonder, the first book is just part one of the Clifton Chronicles, which will compile of 5 parts in total. We will see Harry becoming a rich tycoon and then dying in 2020 (as read from the internet).
Even though I had been reading and enjoying chick-lit genre, ‘Only Time Will Tell’ was a welcome change. Jeffery Archer’s simple language and slow uncovering of the plot got me hooked and I am already waiting for the next part.