Tuesday, 1 October 2013



I can still remember my disappointment when I realised that Elizabeth Jane Howard had simply abandoned the Cazalet family in 1947 at the end of the fourth volume in her family saga ...

That was 18 years ago, which is a very long time to wait for the finale. I was planning to re-read the earlier books to remind myself of who's who and if I had, I'd have been in good company because somebody else has been limbering up, too.

Not a chance. I was too impatient to dive straight in, then spent last week in Cazalet total-immersion. Bliss, I opened the first page on the flight up to Scotland ...

And it was like re-acquainting myself with old friends. It is now 1956 and the Duchy, the family matriarch, is dying. The family must adapt to a post-war world and the Cazalet business empire is shaky. Villy is still bitter about her divorce from slimy Edward who is no longer inappropriately groping their beautiful daughter Louise but that undoubtedly explains why Louise is now the mistress of a wealthy married lover. (Having trouble keeping up? Gosh, I was glad I'd listened to the radio series.)  Diana is a demanding bitch of a second wife. Polly and Clary have young families (EJH is brilliant at writing children). And poor old governess Miss Milliment has Alzheimer's.

I couldn't tell you why I love it so much. Occasionally, it's ludicrous .. . there's a completely daft incestuous romance that runs for a few pages until EJH apparently gets bored with it and lets it fizzle out. But I don't suppose 90-year-old authors get taken to task by their editors.

Actually, I do know why I love it so much. It's the wonderful detail, the descriptions of rooms and clothes and food ...  I imagine that EJH can remember every meal she has ever eaten. There's a wonderfully aggressive dinner party when Diana is bullying her sister-in-law's half-Jewish lesbian  lover with rich, indigestible food - crab soufflé, venison in wine and brandy, followed by crème brûlée. Oh dear, I was sighing over that, it sounds simply delicious to me.

It's a perfect autumn read, a perfect holiday read, perfect for reading with cocoa/malt whisky/soup, perfect for reading in the bath (at least it will be once it's in paperback). And although it says 'final volume' on the cover, EJH has been hinting that there might be another to come.

If you're new to the Cazalets, though, you really do need to start at the beginning.

8 comments:

A Trifle Rushed said...

I'm dashing in to buy it, I re-read the Cazelets over the summer (having loved the radio adaptation). Just what I (and my book club) need!

callmemadam said...

Reading the Cazalet books one after another is such a treat. I must read the latest instalment!

SallyC said...

How entirely fortuitous that I should come across your blog just in time to read about this! Will purchase it immediately, and save it for my upcoming holiday, how exciting.

Mac n' Janet said...

I loved this series and I'm thilled to see that she has continued it. It won't be out till in November here in the states, but I've pre-ordered it for my Kindle anyway.

Alex said...

I've caught bits and pieces of this series as they have been serialised on the radio and every time they start a new book I have resolved to read them all the way through. You have revived that desire and I've just acquired the first novel. Now I need a long stretch of time where I can get lost in the Cazelet world without having to worry about coming back too soon to this one.

SallyC said...

Oh - seems it won't be out here until November either. Perhaps a Christmas holiday read, in that case!

mary said...

Sorry, Sally and Jude _ I wrote this in a hurry and should have mentioned that there's still a few weeks to wait. But it would be a great wallow over Christmas.
Alex, I'd still like to go back to the beginning and start again.

SallyC said...

Anticipation will only add to the eventual pleasure, I'm sure!