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“This is the first of a trilogy that was written in 1979 and was recommended as something a fan of Downton Abbey would enjoy. The novel is divided into four books and the first one is very reminiscent of the Downton Abbey story and moves equally between the upstairs and downstairs characters. ...”see full review » see other reviews »
“This is the first of a trilogy that was written in 1979 and was recommended as something a fan of Downton Abbey would enjoy. The novel is divided into four books and the first one is very reminiscent of the Downton Abbey story and moves equally between the upstairs and downstairs characters.
Anthony Greville, Earl of Stanmore, is the typical traditional English aristocrat. He's married to a beautiful woman and has three smart and attractive children. Archie Foxe is the business genius behind White Manor Tea Shops, a sort of Fortnum and Mason's. He's the father of Lydia, who longs to give up her bourgeois life and marry the Greville heir, Charles. Charles' best friend, Fenton Wood-Lacy has a career in the Coldstream Guards and needs to marry someone wealthy to maintain his lifestyle. Ivy Thaxton is a young maid who wants more out of life than being promoted to parlor maid and having every Wednesday afternoon off.
The novel will explore World War I through the extended family and servants. Books Two and Three take some of the main characters into the heart of WWI. The descriptions of the fighting are heartbreaking and the horror of WWI is not neglected. Through the eyes of the American cousin, Martin Rilke, we are witness to Gallipoli and the Battle of the Somme. I don't think I ever realized how truly horrific "trench warfare" was. Martin is also able to give us the American perspective of the conflict since most of the action he witnesses is before America enters the war.
I don't know what I was expecting with this book but I really liked it. The author makes his male characters way more interesting than the female ones. He doesn't focus on one main character and perhaps that's because a lot of the story takes place during the war and the female characters are mostly relegated to England or as wartime nurses. One notable exception is Alexandra Greville, who comes to grip with the horrors of war and really grows up during the passage of the book.
It was a very engaging family saga that reflects the British class, culture and spirit of that time period. I thought the story was very intriguing and immediately ordered up the second in the series called "Circles in Time". ”
“A British family saga that takes place during WWI and deals with the soldiers and nurses directly involved and the devastating effects it had on many. Interesting story and look at the changing times, especially the class system in England.”Catwoman wrote this review Sunday, May 26, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“RDC-M V 5 1979, 8/86. Grevelle family saga, book 1. War starts in Europe while English Grevelle daughter has her debutant season, son is in love with a commoner, against his father's wishes. Okay”Diane Wachter wrote this review Tuesday, April 16, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Given the Downton Abbey craze, I was apprehensive about this trilogy: was it any good or just a marketing ploy to cash in while DA is hot?
Thankfully, happily, awesomely, this book is good. Great. Another meaty hist fic that satisfies. This review, however, is probably going to be a hot mess, because how do I describe what is contained in these 500+ pages without just squeeing stupidly? Here goes:
The novel follows a few families and tangential individuals from 1914 through 1920, and at first, the enormous cast was be a bit overwhelming. There are the rich, titled, old money families, the wealthy trade families who are trying to gain their own social standing, the working class, the serving class, and everything in between.
As a result, this book is massive, in size, cast, and scope. Still, I loved every frickin' page. It's the kind of epic book I love to snuggle up with and devour over a weekend, and devour I did -- I was sneaking reads as often as I can. (I recommend not putting this down for any length of time -- given the size of the cast, it could be very easy to forget who is who.)
Opening at the beautiful, bucolic country estate of Abingdon Pryory, the reader basks in the refined dramas of the titled rich -- marriages, love affairs, training house hold staff -- before widening to incorporate a wider lens. As the residents of Abingdon Pryory move to London for the season, we meet the educated tradesmen, American relatives, reporters, and politicians. Then war strikes and everything changes.
Rock's writing style reminded me of the 'classic' historical fiction I love. There's a little romance -- some vague intimations of sex among the younger set -- and a leeetle bit of philosophic ruminations on war and violence. As this was originally written in the late 1970s, Rock has some distance from the era to insert a little sharp and wry commentary and observation. Early on, for example, one of his characters muses about the inequality of marrying American heiress made rich from trade while an Englishwoman with a successful merchant father is completely out of the picture. It's a darkly funny moment and this novel is punctuated with that -- the hypocrisy and beauty of the pre-World War I era.
Rock's characters do change and shift and I liked them, all of them. Some are selfish, some are jerks, some are badly behaved -- but I found all of them to be real and settled in their 'place' -- even as their place shifted as time went on. (Rock conveys that shift so very well -- when one of the titled rich girls seeks out her former maid, now a nurse, their interaction is painful and striking.)
If you like family sagas, this is your book -- while I normally bristle now at sequels, I am bouncing with excitement for the second book. I don't want to leave these people yet. ”
“WWI changed the world. This book is the first in a trilogy and follows the lives of an English upper class family through the changes that war brought about. It's not "Downton Abbey" so if you're looking for a story that focuses on the house, this isn't it. It's more gritty than that and while there was a little more detail about the war itself than I would have liked, in retrospect, it was necessary for this book. (3 and a half stars)”Jerseygirl / Dame Constance (Oodles) Oxford-Whapdoodle, D.C., B.C., D.C.A. wrote this review Friday, January 25, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“First published in 1978, The Passing Bells has gotten a new lease on life, thanks to the popularity of the BBC show Downton Abbey. As you can see from the description, this book is being marketed as similar to Downton, and, thankfully, there is some truth in that. However, the focus in The Passing Bells is much more on history than on romantic drama. The Passing Bells reads more like Herman Wouk's Winds of War in a Downton-like setting.
The Passing Bells gets off to a rather slow start, introducing the myriad characters, but not delving too deeply to any one of them. This portion before the war is most reminiscent of Downton Abbey, but was also my least favorite part, because it lacked drama to pull me in and I did not yet know the characters well enough to be more than mildly interested in them. Given the 500+ pages in the book, I feared I might regret my decision to be on the tour for all three novels in this series, but, thankfully, the novel picked up for me about 150 pages in.
In Downton Abbey, WWI happens largely off-screen, and it's over quite quickly. The show races through history, but Rock lingers. He does not gloss over the war or keep the perspective more on the romances. He also shows off more of the dark side of war, which may have been his goal in composing the series. Rock highlights this time period as the turning point in England from the time of the landed estates to a more modern sensibility.
The Passing Bells encompasses the whole of WWII, with an emphasis on the first couple years of the conflict. The characters in The Passing Bells have roles in the war that range from soldier to nurse to doctor to journalist to living a slightly reduced life back in England. There's a great scope of British experiences during the war, all done very well. If you love historical fiction about World War I, The Passing Bells is a must read.
Rock develops a good cast of characters, some of whom are even reminiscent of characters in Downton Abbey, like Lydia who reminds me a lot of Lady Mary at her most scheming. I do wish there were more of an even focus on the female characters. The men receive a lot more attention than the women, who mostly appear only in relation to the male characters. The book does pass the Bechdel test, but only just barely.
Rock's The Passing Bells is a family drama of large scope that poses serious questions about the nature of modern warfare. History fans will not want to miss this. I am looking forward to reading the next installment of the trilogy quite soon.”
“I have to give big props to the minds responsible for resurrecting this series. Thanks to the popularity of Downton Abbey, everyone seems to be looking for something Downton-esque these days, which is fortunate for readers and for Rock's trilogy. Originally published back in the 70s, the trilogy has been repackaged and rereleased for all of us Downton fans! (No, there's no connection between the series and Downton except the whole people-who-like-this-will-also-like... deal, which is totally fine with me!)
This first in the trilogy begins in the summer of 1914 just before the beginning of WWI. For the Greville family of Abingdon Pryory, the season begins with plans of daughter Alexandra's introduction as an eligible bachelorette in London and concern over son Charles's infatuation with Lydia Foxe - a match his father, Lord Stanmore, would never approve. Hanna Greville's American nephew has arrived for a visit and talk is centered around home rule concerns. But when war breaks out in Europe, even the Grevilles are not immune to the dangers it presents.
When I first learned of this release, I have to admit I was pretty anxious to get to it. I am a pretty big Downton fan and was very much looking forward to diving into Passing Bells. I found myself completely engrossed from the very beginning. What was surprising, and I've seen others mention this very thing, was that the book took a completely unexpected turn. I definitely thought it be more of the Downton/Upstairs, Downstairs drama, so when part two launched into WWI as heavily as it did, I was a little unprepared. It was a pleasant (if reading about war can be described as pleasant) surprise.
Much of the focus of the book is on the characters and through them we see how people are affected by the war. Each character in turn offers a slightly different way of seeing events. For example, Fenton Wood-Lacy, a friend of the Grevilles, is at the forefront of the battle from the very early stages. Martin, Hanna's nephew, is also in the thick of it as a journalist representing a Chicago paper. Alexandra volunteers as a nurse while her father is reeling not only from the violence in Europe but the massive changes Abingdon is experiencing as a result.
In spite of its size, I found that The Passing Bells moved along at a wonderful pace. I never felt as though the book was hung up or slowed at any point even though it did take me longer to read than many I've delved into of late. This was also a pleasant surprise since it forced me to slow down and savor the read. And it is definitely a book to be savored.”
The first novel in Phillip Rock's Greville Family Saga, The Passing Bells, is a magnificent work of historical fiction that successfully captures the atmosphere and spirit of the age in which it is set. The novel opens in England in the summer of 1914, and even though Europe is poised on the brink of war, life continues on as usual at Abingdon Pryory, the stately home of the Earl of Stanmore and his family. After the War's outbreak, the general consensus is that Britain and her allies will enjoy a quick victory. Countless young men, including Charles Greville, heir to the Earldom of Stanmore, enthusiastically heed the call to arms and are dispatched to fight for King and country. Despite initial optimism, a conclusion to hostilities remains elusive and the spirit with which the participants began the war soon dissipates as the realities of the conflict set in. Back in England, the War brings an end to the nobility's golden age and ushers in a period of immense social change.
With well-developed characters, engaging story lines and a remarkable sense of time and place, The Passing Bells is a novel not to be missed. The early part of the book, which focuses primarily on the lives and loves of the Greville's and those closest to them prior to the outset of the War, provides an intimate look at the privileged lives of Britain's noble class. While the first part of the novel is entertaining, the greatest strength of this book rests with how well Rock has captured the War and the struggles of those who fought in it. Whether detailing character experiences in the trenches of the Somme, on a ship off the coast of Gallipoli, at a Casualty Clearing Station close to the Front, or in hospital recovering from wounds, Rock successfully conveys the horrors of WWI. For this reason it is not difficult to understand why the War had such a devastating and lasting effect on those who lived through it.
The Greville Family Saga continues in Circles of Time and A Future Arrived.
Recommended to all readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in novels set during the Edwardian era and WWI. ”