Casting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Casting Off cover

Casting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard was first published in 1995 and until a few minutes ago I had thought that it was the last in the Cazalet series, but apparently the last one All Change was published in 2013, the year before Howard died.

I know that a few blogpals are intending to read this one soonish so I don’t want to say too much about the storyline that runs from July 1945 to 1947.

You would think that people would be relieved beyond belief that the war in Europe was over, but of course for lots of people it meant the end of a time when they had plenty to do, they had had a sense of achievement or importance as they had been needed in the various voluntary organisations helping the war effort. Everyone is trying to get used to the changes although of course some things aren’t changing quickly enough, such as the rationing which is getting worse.

Members of the Cazalet family are beginning to move back to London instead of all being at the family country home – Home Place. Relationships are changing, some might not survive.

Three quarters of the way through this book I was feeling quite depressed by it as I really didn’t like the turn things were taking, and I couldn’t see how the author would get the many loose ends tied up by the end, and I had been under the impression that this was the last book.

I ended up being fairly well satisfied with it, especially as the characters that I particularly disliked seemed to be getting their richly deserved come-uppance. I’ll now have to get the last in the series All Change.

I’m thinking about buying the DVDs of the BBC series because I didn’t see it when it was on TV. Did any of you watch the series and if so did you enjoy it?

Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard

 Confusion cover

Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard is the third book in her Cazalet Chronicles, it was first published in 1993. World War 2 is in full swing now and the Cazalet’s lumber business is in trouble because the government is insisting that they pay tax on the wood that was destroyed when their dockside warehouses were bombed in the previous book. But that’s by the by. It’s the personal lives of the family members that fill the book of course.

Louise has married the much older artist Michael Hadleigh, but he’s now in the navy and Michael is still attached to his mother’s apron strings. When he gets leave he spends the time with mummy and it isn’t long before it’s obvious that he has only married Louise so that she can provide him with loads of children – and then he will have plenty of subjects to paint right on hand. Too late Louise realises that he isn’t really interested in women at all, and her mother-in-law is a monster.

I can imagine that some readers might think that the mother-in-law is completely over the top but there are some around that are exactly like that. Believe me!

In fact in Confusion many of the characters are coming to the end of relationships, whether they know it or not.

Despite the fact that the Louise/Michael relationship was getting my blood pressure up and I was planning what I would do to Edward if I were his wife I did really enjoy this book and I’ll be reading the next one in the series Casting Off – early in the new year. I think that Sandra @ A Corner of Cornwall and I are doing a readalong of it.

I’m going to be starting reading Christmas themed books soon in an attempt to get me into the spirit of it all and I’ll be joining the Spirit of Christmas Challenge, but more about that soonish.

Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard

 Marking Time cover

Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard was first published in 1991 and is the second book in the Cazalet Chronicles.

I found this one to be just as enjoyable as The Light Years, the first book in the series, always a bit of a scene setter. The characters are all maturing nicely, inevitable given the things they’re experiencing.

The older members of the family take a bit of a back seat for a lot of this book as the focus is on the younger generation and how they are coping as the war just begins to bite deeper into every aspect of life.

Rupert’s young second wife Zoe is never going to be the same again after her horrific experience in book one, something so shaming she’s never going to tell anyone about it, but the birth of Rupert’s son has given her something to live for while Rupert is thought by everyone to almost certainly be dead.

Villy has been seriously ill but she and her husband Edward are in denial of the whole illness and heartbreakingly as Villy goes into remission and feels so much better she jumps to the conclusion that her health has turned a corner and she is getting back to normal with nothing to worry about. Edward, her otherwise despicable husband can’t bear to tell her the truth. Their whole marriage has been based on secrets with Villy sticking her head in the sand when she doesn’t want to admit things, either that or she’s just too dim for words.

The families’ London houses have all been more or less shut up for the duration of the war as bombs have been raining down on the capital, damaging the woodyards belonging to the Cazalets, so important to the war effort and their income.

There are secrets aplenty, unrequited love, affairs and annoying unfair prejudices against daughters by mothers. It’s just after that time known as ‘the Phoney War’ when life in Britain went on much as before for the first months of it and rationing for clothes and food hadn’t quite taken hold.

Mind you the Cazalets were rich and the rich were/are always cushioned from the daily deprivations that others have to get used to. Such is life and it’s that sort of reality that makes me feel that Howard has captured the atmosphere of wartime south of England. I’m looking forward to the next in the series which I think is called Confusion.

Joan @ Planet Joan read Marking time recently too and you can read her thoughts on it here.