Sunday, March 23, 2014
The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer
Books: The Clifton Chronicles. There are four books in the series, the newest was just released and I finished it in three days.
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Grade: Variable: From B+ to C+
Recommended To: Fans of British writing.
I picked up the first three books of the Clifton Chronicles on Amazon for two bucks apiece. I hadn't heard of Jeffrey Archer before and after reading the first book, I blazed through the rest. I couldn't possibly parse out the stories for complete reviews of each book now, so I am combining them all into one review. I thought these books were delightful! The grades do not necessarily reflect how much I liked reading this books, but let me explain.
This is a British family saga story. It is about Harry Clifton and his life from boyhood at an English prep school on a choral scholarship to his eventual adult life as a married man with children. Then, the story branches out and includes the lives of his best friend Giles, his mother, his children, his wife's siblings, etc. Each family member is devoted to a few chapters that eventually advance the story. Occasionally the chapters retell a portion of the story from a different perspective.
First, these books cannot be described as well-written. But, there is a vast difference between passable writing, a literary genius, and books that are just plain terrible. Archer's series is an example of the first. These books are not literary works, but Archer can put together a sentence and he can keep a story moving. Think Daniel Silva or John Grisham. These authors do not write prize winning literature, but their writing is decent enough so that I keep buying.
Second, is Archer writing something totally new and fresh? Probably not. But, his characters get themselves into scraps and scrapes and come out somewhat fresh and changed, which can't be said for some other writers (AHEM, Veronica Roth). I know, I know, you want to know why on earth I like these books since I'm usually the most critical of flat characters and overdone plots. But, I found the situations interesting. The books keep pace very well. They don't lag or drag. The reader knows exactly who to root for at all times, so the reading is fast and easy.
Third, although Archer uses some of the same literary devices again and again, I oddly wasn't bothered. Just about the only device in Archer's arsenal is the cliffhanger. Almost every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. I admit, it is repetitive, but the story kept moving and Archer resolves almost all of the cliffhangers by the next chapter or book. Instead of becoming irritating, I found the cliffhangers endearing and a minor hurdle for the sake of the story.
Ultimately, these books kept my attention and made me laugh. For example, there is one scene in the most recent book where the wife of one of the "bad" characters leaves her husband and takes only the left shoe of all of his shoes. That's hilarious! I found myself chuckling out loud several times while reading these books because of the crazy situations that the characters find themselves in and because of the revenge exacted.
Are these the best books ever written? No, of course not. But, are they fun, lighthearted, easy reads? Yes! And I absolutely recommend them for summer reading.