He thought suddenly of Abingdon Pryory, that summer evening after dinner…Lord Stanmore rising to give a toast. Dear friends and gentle hearts. The words ran through his head like a litany as the taxi crawled through the traffic toward the railway station. Dear friends…gentle hearts…words so meaningless in this time — in this place.
(from A Future Arrived, page 193)
A Future Arrived, first published in 1985, is the last book in Phillip Rock’s trilogy about the Greville family of the English manor house Abingdon Pryor during World War I and World War II. I loved the first two books, The Passing Bells and Circles of Time, and given my attachment to the characters, I couldn’t help but love this one as well. A Future Arrived spans the years 1930 to 1940, focusing on Hitler’s rise to power and the outbreak of another world war. Rock once again focuses on Martin Rilke, world famous journalist and nephew of Hanna Greville, the Countess of Stanmore, with other beloved characters from the first two books making appearances.
However, two decades have passed since WWI and the events of the first novel, and the children of the men and women who came of age then take their place in the spotlight. Martin Rilke’s brother-in-law, Albert Thaxton, wants to be a journalist and follow in his footsteps, and the chaotic events prior to and including WWII offer plenty of opportunities. The Wood-Lacy twins, Jennifer and Victoria, as different as night and day, and their younger sister, Kate, along with Alexandra Greville’s son, Colin, and Charles Greville’s former student, Derek Ramsey, like their parents before them, are forced to learn about life and love in the midst of war.
A Future Arrived was a difficult book to put down, but at the same time, I didn’t want to rush through it because I knew I was going to have a hard time letting these characters go. Although I longed for more time with the characters I’d grown to love since the first book, I understood the need for the torch to be passed and to view the wartime struggles from the eyes of the characters at the forefront. At the same time, Rock also shows how those who remember the Great War deal with the prospect of another, and he continues to shine a light on social class, sexuality, and the role of women, which changed so much in response to WWI. The scope of this trilogy is so big, so ambitious, yet focusing on one family navigating the changes brought by two wars makes it manageable.
If I had one complaint about this book it would be that it seemed to cover too much time, too quickly. There were two books to get to know the other characters, but this is the only book that really focuses on the children and grandchildren, so the shift from their pre-teen years to their twenties occurs pretty fast. In fact, the first third or so of the book is set in 1930, with a single chapter to bring readers up to speed before Book 2, which begins in 1938. Yet, I loved the characters and the book anyway.
The period between the world wars was a tumultuous time, and Rock brilliantly captures the chaos in A Future Arrived. Of course, I couldn’t keep myself from crying as I ended this trilogy. These are characters I will not forget and stories that will linger in my mind for a long time. These are books that have made it on my list of favorites and my shelf of definite re-reads. They exemplify what I love the most about historical fiction and why I find this period in history so fascinating. This last installment was 450 pages, but it could easily have been longer and I wouldn’t have minded one bit.
Disclosure: I received A Future Arrived from William Morrow for review.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.