Friday, February 22, 2013
A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock
A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date: February 5, 2013 (Reissue)
Rating 5 out of 5
Book Summary: The final installment of the saga of the Grevilles of Abingdon Pryory begins in the early 1930s, as the dizzy gaiety of the Jazz Age comes to a shattering end. What follows is a decade of change and uncertainty, as the younger generation, born during or just after the “war to end all wars,” comes of age.
American writer Martin Rilke has made his journalistic mark, earning worldwide fame with his radio broadcasts, and young Albert Thaxton seeks to follow in his footsteps as a foreign correspondent. Derek Ramsey, born only weeks after his father fell in France, and Colin Ross, a dashing Yankee, leave their schoolboy days behind and enter fighter pilot training as young men. The beautiful Wood-Lacy twins, Jennifer and Victoria, and their passionate younger sister, Kate, strive to forge independent paths, while learning to love—and to let go.
In their heady youth and bittersweet growth to adulthood, they are the future—but the shadows that touched the lives of the generation before are destined to reach out to their own.
My Thoughts: The final book of the Greville Family trilogy opens with Lord Greville, Earl of Stanmore, rising and dressing early, as was his habit, on one of the first warm mornings in the spring of 1930. This opening is harkens back to chapter one in The Passing Bells, the first of the trilogy. In those opening pages, Lord Greville, a much younger man, spent his mornings horse-back riding while his family slept. Now, Lord Greville is sixty-eight and though the passing years have seen a plethora of changes and modernization, Lord Greville’s maintained his conservative, aristocratic ways. On this beautiful morning, he learns of a shocking occurrence that deeply saddens him shaking him to his core. He is thrust into the past, overwhelmed by memories of a former time that addle his mind. Here, author Phillip Rock captures so well a feeling familiar to us all, but difficult to explain. We’ve all experienced an incident, either trivial or much more important, that comes to us unbidden and suddenly. At this time, we’re reminded of a glorious time in our past that we miss deeply but we know is lost to us forever. Not only does Rock use these passages to evoke our empathy, Rock impressively guarantees here that A Future Arrived can stand on its own, apart from the first two books, for readers who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this trilogy from book one.
I was happy to see that, right from the beginning, this book promised to maintain the high standards and relatable, if not completely familiar, feelings and situations of the previous two. As a result, the way Rock relays this sad occurrence, Lord Greville’s reaction and the events that follow, is an effective means of underscoring the arrival of the future. You can feel what Lord Greville is feeling: the sense that now the future belongs to the generation of his children and their families. He can no longer ignore that an era has passed and life has truly moved on. Lord Greville his happy as his children and their families, along with his close friends, fill Abingdon Pryory to show their love and support but he can no longer deny he’s lost complete control over his own life. Having read the first two books, this book’s beginning becomes something more than poignant, but even if you haven’t read them, you know this is a great indication of a good book ahead.
Reading A Future Arrived was bittersweet. I was sad knowing I had come to the end of the trilogy, remembering how much fun it was to meet the saga’s characters in The Passing Bells. (my review) Then came learning who they were and what they’re about over the course of the first two books, within which Rock does an amazing job developing the many characters. They are fully formed in all areas: mentally, psychologically, morally, and even physically. I came away from the first novel feeling like they were all real people. It was a joy to immerse myself in the second installment, Circles of Time, (my review) and discover what the characters who I felt I knew so well were doing. It was as if I was visiting old friends after a long separation and, over good food and drink, (although not like Lady Hanna’s feast, unfortunately!) they relayed their ‘adventures’ since last we’d met.
Martin Rilke, the American journalist and Lady Hanna’s nephew, continues to be the connection between most of the other characters. He’s intelligent, kind, a good listener, free of judgment and amicable. But it’s Martin’s integrity that’s made him a household name as a writer and is bringing him fame as a radio correspondent. He’s also the one friends and family seek out for advice in confusing and serious matters. Martin’s young brother-in-law, Albert Thaxton, has his sights set on being a journalist like Martin. He’s taken Albert under his wing to teach him to be a proper journalist. As we learned about the Great War primarily through Martin and the people he met on his travels in book one, Hitler’s influence in Germany and the advent of World War II is brought to us through Martin and Albert. Martin and Albert’s relationship is a poignant reminder of the woman who brought them together, Ivy Thaxton. She’s the love of Martin’s life and, although there marriage was quite brief, Martin hasn’t found a woman he could love as he loved Ivy.
Phillip Rock began his trilogy with the Great War and ends it with the beginning of WWII. In between, he successfully shows us how war impacts the lives of the people it touches. We become aware of how much people’s behavior is altered and societal norms become less important. We see in Rock’s characters how significant honesty becomes in relationships and people become aware of the need to show and tell others you love them and to cherish your time with them. Inappropriate behavior is explained away by the stress associated with war and individual’s perspective on what really matters in life undergoes significant change. The chasm between generations seems to widen as young people becomes more open-minded while their elders cling to what they always known and believed. In Rock’s mesmerizing saga we see how all of these things come to pass particularly with the youngest generation in A Future Arrived including Lord Greville and Lady Hanna’s grandchildren.
I’m sad to finish these books. I highly recommend them to anyone who has enjoyed Downton Abbey, British fiction and stories about the world wars. Rock’s writing is beautiful and he transitions smoothly from character to character, year to year and even book to book. I didn’t speak about specific characters for the most part because there are so many and they seem to come in pairs or more so I thought I’d leave it to you to discover the wonder and breadth of Rock’s characters. Their lives are filled with love, loyalty redemption, loss, forgiveness, friendship, laughter and tears. You don’t want to miss this trilogy. Trust me!