This “dazzling” novel follows a family of English aristocrats as their country teeters on the brink of World War II (Penelope Fitzgerald).
As war clouds gather on the distant horizon, Hugh, Edward, and Rupert Cazalet, along with their wives, children, and loyal servants, prepare to leave London for their annual pilgrimage to the family’s Sussex estate. There, they will join their parents, William and Kitty, and sister, Rachel, at Home Place, the sprawling retreat where the three brothers hope to spend an idyllic summer of years gone by. But the First World War has left indelible scars.
Hugh, the eldest of his siblings, was wounded in France and is haunted both by recurring nightmares of battle and the prospect of another war. Edward adores his wife, Villy, a former dancer searching for meaning in life, yet he’s incapable of remaining faithful to her. Rupert desires only to fulfill his potential as a painter, but finds that love and art cannot coexist. And devoted daughter Rachel discovers the joys—and limitations—of intimacy with another woman.
A candid portrait of British life in the late 1930s and a sweeping depiction of a world on the brink of war, The Light Years is a must-read for fans of Downton Abbey. Three generations of the Cazalet family come to unforgettable dramatic life in this saga about England during the last century—and the long-held values and cherished traditions that would soon disappear forever.
In her charming but unwieldy eighth novel, the author of Odd Girl Out and Getting It Right portrays three generations of an upper-class English family summering at their Sussex estate in 1937 and 1938. The daily concerns of the Cazalet patriarch, his four children, nine grandchildren, countless in-laws, servants and pets range from the mundane to the seriously significant: the children rescue their cat from a tree, the chauffeur drives too slowly, the adults discuss the prospect of war. The temptations of adultery and incest that lurk beneath the chitchat rarely threaten the comfortable routine. Howard's attempts at insightful characterization, suspenseful plot development and sweeping depiction of an era achieve only partial success, due to the sheer size of the cast and the continual introduction of subplots thereafter neglected. For hundreds of breezy but disappointingly ``light'' pages, Howard sets the stage for climactic events that never occur. The fan of sagas full of slice-of-life detail may find the book too short, while the lover of catharsis will feel it stops short of its goal. In either case, another installment is required.