All Change (The Cazalet Chronicle, #5)

by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Monday, January 5, 2015

This is the fifth in a family saga that begins in 1938 with a group of cousins - well the whole family but the focus is always on the young girls - going to their grandparents big house in Sussex where they end up spending most of the war. The first four volumes cover the war years and just beyond and sees the girls into young adulthood. This last volume picks up the story in the mid-1950s and sees them in their 30s with families of their own.

At first this book is heavy on the nostalgia with the characters spending a lot of time reminiscing about things that happened in the previous books. It’s a bit too sugary sweet but no one who has got this far through the series will really object to this though it doesn’t make for a good story. But the world is changing in the 1950s and the Cazalet family must change with it. When things start to go awry for them it becomes a much better book, and knowing the characters as well as you do by this point means that you know it is not going to be that bleak, there are some tough cookies here and there are also characters you are pleased to see get their comeuppance.

In the end the whole series adds up to a lovely, often sentimental (and often in a good way), portrait of the life of an upper middle class family across a twenty year span in which I think Britain changed as fast as it ever had done and yet people, on the whole, managed to keep up and change with it. For once I am not sorry that this is the end of the series, the series would probably have seemed complete at four books but this one does cap off the story well without tying up every loose end and I can use my imagination to guess where the characters go from here.