Book Review: Only Time Will Tell

Author: Jeffrey Archer

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, August 2011 / Audio produced by Macmillian Audio

Genre: Fiction, Family Saga

Format: Audiobook, Read by Roger Allam and Emilia Fox

My Rating: A

Some stories are perfect for long road trips. There is always some point in the trip when you have to travel the boring interstate highways – you know the ones where everything looks the same. I’ve been saving a couple of audiobooks for just this occasion. This book I want to tell you about today is one of those.

My husband and I have both been longtime fans of Jeffrey Archer. He’s a British storyteller who must have inherited his skills from other legendary bards. We still remember his brilliant work in Kane and Abel. I think he may have outdone himself in this new five-book Clifton Chronicles, however.

Only Time Will Tell is the first book in the series. It features a lovable young boy named Harry. He’s from a poor family. There is only his widowed mom, who’s a waitress in a tea shop, his grandparents, who can no longer work, and his not-very-nice uncle, who works in the docks.

It’s always tough making ends meet, but Harry has several things in his favor. First, his mother is very determined that Harry have a better life. Harry has a special gift – an unusually beautiful singing voice. Also, there are people around Harry willing to help him, in various ways, to get the breaks he needs.

A teacher helps Harry learn to read so he can try out for the church choir. The choir director makes sure his singing is heard by the right people. Eventually Harry earns a chance to compete for a choral scholarship at a prestigious boys school. Here he receives a first rate education but also learns to love to learn.

Although his mother makes numerous sacrifices and Harry works extremely hard at school, it is his experience at school, and the people he meets there, that changes his life forever.

There are also mysteries within this story. First there is an old man, Old Jack, who becomes a surrogate uncle to Harry. But, really, who is Jack? He might live in an old railroad car down by the docks, but he’s obviously well educated. There is also the question of how Harry’s father died. No one is willing to tell Harry the truth. Does anyone really know the truth? And, finally, who is Harry’s father? The story says it is Harry’s legal father, but the reader suspects it’s really another man.

There was plenty in this story to keep our imaginations whirling as we traveled the interstate. We hated when we had to make fuel or restroom stops. We jumped right back in the truck and kept listening. Yes, it’s that good.

We only had a couple of complaints. One was that the story ended in the air. Now we have to wait for who knows how long to read/listen to book number two. We wish the author and publisher would hurry. The other complaint was a technical one. At the end of the story an FBI agent was arresting Harry and reading him his Miranda rights. The problem is the story was set in 1939. Miranda rights didn’t go into effect until, we believe, the 1980s. I don’t blame the author. After all, he’s British. But the publisher/editors are American and should have know better.

Those are minor complaints so don’t let that stop you from picking up a copy of this book. This is storytelling at it’s very best.

I’m grateful to Barbara from Views From the Country, who awarded this book to me in a giveaway. Thanks Barbara for many hours of pure enjoyment.

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6 Responses to Book Review: Only Time Will Tell

  1. I think I read some of Archer’s work years ago. It sounds like this one was perfect for your road trip!

  2. Barbara says:

    You’re welcome, Margot. I’m glad you and your husband enjoyed it as much as I did. I’m dying to read the second book but don’t know when it’s coming out. Does anyone know?

  3. kaye says:

    I love those stories that fill the long hours in a road trip. Nice review.

  4. Beth F says:

    Little factual errors are sometimes off-putting, but this one isn’t a deal-breaker. I’ll have to look for this.

  5. Glad you enjoyed it overall. The cliffhanger ending was annoying, but it certainly made me eager to read the second book. I believe it’s already out in print and audio; I read it earlier this year.

  6. toni says:

    Hi Margot, you’ve got the life ~ an open road and an open book 🙂
    THX for noticing the Miranda rights detail….our book group is meeting soon, I’ll bring it up.
    I’m already reading the next book in the series. Cliffhangers get me every time.

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