“I have no idea what you’re up to, my dear,” said Maisie, once Emma had released her, “but whatever it is, I wish you luck.”
Emma wanted to tell her, I’m going in search of your son, and I won’t return until I’ve found him.
(from The Sins of the Father, page 51)
The Sins of the Father is Volume 2 in The Clifton Chronicles, a family saga by Jeffrey Archer that began with Only Time Will Tell and centers on Harry Clifton, the son of a Bristol dock worker who died under mysterious circumstances and an impoverished woman who went above and beyond the duties of a mother to ensure her son received the education he deserved. The latest installment in the series picks up right where Only Time Will Tell left off, and because there are few explanatory references to the first novel, I think they really must be read in order — especially if you want to understand the characters’ connections to Harry and what sparked the chain of events that complicated all of their lives.
In The Sins of the Father, which spans the years of World War II, Harry is desperate to escape the revelations that upset his life and prevented his marriage to Emma Barrington, the sister of his best friend, Giles. He finds himself in New York City, having miraculously survived a German torpedo attack, while his family back in England mourns his death. Harry soon learns that it’s not really a good idea to assume the identity of a dead man you didn’t know very well, as it likely will bring you more trouble than simply facing your problems head on.
Meanwhile, Emma believes Harry is still alive and goes off in search of him, Giles goes off to war, and their despicable father, Hugo, shunned by his family and friends, jeopardizes the family business in a quest for more money and power. At the same time, Harry’s mother, Maisie, struggling with grief, throws herself into her work and learns that happiness may actually be possible for a woman who’s had a rough life and never put herself first.
The drama of the Cliftons and the Barringtons continues at top speed in The Sins of the Father. The book reads so quickly that I almost finished it in one sitting. Archer grabs readers’ attention by plunging them into the action from the first page, shifting frequently between different characters’ points of view, peeling back another layer of the story in nearly every chapter, and knowing exactly when to leave readers dangling in suspense.
The book is divided into sections by character, with overlapping years so that readers follow each of them over the course of the war. This narrative structure works so well here because the characters are well developed and could each have a novel of their own. Moreover, Archer connects all of them to a strong central character — Harry, a reluctant hero who is made out to be almost saintly at times but is very real in his emotions and mistakes.
World War II is at the forefront of The Sins of the Father. Both Harry and Giles had dropped out of university to fight, and both ended up doing so despite taking very different paths into the action. I really enjoyed reading Giles’ war story because it was a little bit like Hogan’s Heroes, one of my all-time favorite television shows. There are a few combat scenes, which are exciting, but the impact of the war on those back home is muted as the other characters are too caught up in their own troubles, not to mention the fact that most are rich and not struggling as much as the “common” people.
As in Only Time Will Tell, Archer leaves readers with another cliffhanger ending. That usually drives me crazy, but at least I was expecting it this time. I highly recommend this series for readers who enjoy fast-paced books with a little war and a lot of family secrets and well developed characters. There’s a lot going on in these books, and sometimes they might cross the line into unbelievable, but they really are meant to be escapist reads. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long for Volume 3!
Disclosure: I borrowed The Sins of the Father from the public library.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.