The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard


If you haven’t read any of the Cazalet Chronicles then I suggest you remedy that right now. Here’s a link to Waterstones where you can buy all five books. What are you waiting for? Go!

I was given a set of Elizabeths Jane Howard’s five wonderful books by my mum for my 40th birthday. I had never heard of them before. But when I opened up the first in the series, The Light years, I was introduced to a world of enchanted childhoods and old fashioned, endless summers and I was hooked immediately. My only problem was trying not to read all of them at once.

The Light Years begins in 1937 at the family estate, Home Place, in the heart of the Sussex countryside. Three generations of the Cazalet family are home for a summer of lavish meals, picnics on the beach and long, lazy sunny days. But things aren’t always so idealistic, there is a grittiness to this book which undercuts the occasional cosiness

Along with their extended family, their children and their servants, a fascinating drama of love affairs, sibling relationships and rivalries begins, against the backdrop of impending war and devastating loss, and stretches across five novels.

The books are told cleverly through the narrative point of view of over a dozen characters, so that the stories are brought to us in relatively short bursts. However if you think all those characters sharing the storyline would be complicated or confusing you’d be wrong, Howard’s characterisation and clear story telling means that we know exactly who is who and what part of the story is developing. She’s an incredibly clever and confident story teller.

If you are fascinated by social history and the intricacies of familial relationships, there is nothing you won’t love about these books. And the great thing is if you devour The Light Years in a few days, like I did, you have another four books to read.

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