Sunday, 8 December 2013

Cazalets and Doctor Blake

I've had an overdose of 1940s and 1950s life this weekend catching up with The Doctor Blake Mysteries (BBC please repeat those on a weekend afternoon) and the Cazalet Quartet and I'm still only on Volume One. I can't quite think of it as the Cazalet Quintet yet as the final volume seems so separate.

While I absolutely loved the first four novels and even wore out a couple of paperbacks, I hadn't read the Cazalet Quartet for quite some time and I did leave it a few weeks after reading All Change, the fifth and much later volume, so that I could compare with a clear mind. I still feel rather let down and I'm not sure if that's the way I'm meant to feel. I'm pleased to say that the voices are as strong as they ever were and the children are seen grappling with the same difficulties facing their parents in the original four novels even though the pre-war certainties have faded away. Without giving spoilers, it's almost justice that the selfish Zoe has such an angst-ridden and self-absorbed teenage daughter to care for. I had hoped to see a little more of Jessica and Raymond, but I've caught up with old friends (Jemima, Polly, Hugh and Simon) and had another welcome glimpse into their lives. It's easy to write tidy endings; much braver, as Elizabeth Jane Howard has done, to leave matters unresolved. 400 pages and Home Place isn't the refuge from life that it once was and post-war life wasn't as easy or comfortable as the Cazalets had hoped. Money is worth less and business cultures are changing to their disadvantage. It's the era when the enterprising can be successful quickly, but most Cazalets lack the business flair and brain to capitalise.

Next up on the re-reading list is the underrated Quantocks Quartet by Ruth Elwin Harris. A series to be read when you have time to finish all four books in order.

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