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Cazalet Chronicles Books In Order

Publication Order of Cazalet Chronicles Books

The Light Years (1988) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Marking Time (1991) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Confusion (1993) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Casting Off (1995) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
All Change (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

The Cazalet Chronicles series is a set of five family saga novels by celebrated British author Elizabeth Jane Howard. The charming yet thrilling series of novels tells the tale of the yearnings and secrets of the Cazalet family that lives in Home Place, Sussex over the course of 30 years. The first four novels in the series were published between 1990 and 1995 with the latest one All Change published in 2013. The Cazalet Chronicles are an exploration of the ambitions, passion, and affairs of the Cazalet family as they live their normal Upper Class lives, from the prewar period, up until about 15 years after the end of the war in the fifties. Writing with poignant observation and magnificent period detail, Elizabeth Jane Howard writes about the familial experience of loss, love, and ultimately life changing developments in the Cazalet family. The novels are centered on the adult children of the Duchy and the Brig: Rupert, Edward, and Hugh, their wives and children, and Rachel their unmarried daughter. After 20 years of prosperity with their timber business, the family is increasingly facing uncertainties with the family’s heir having no head for business that their father had. Adding to the increasing uncertainty is the identity crisis that most members of the family increasingly succumb to. In all this, the Cazalets have to deal with crumbling familial relations and minor subversions, all of which add to the spice of the novels.

With Jane Austen like adaptations coming back into vogue, Elizabeth’s Howard’s Cazalets became highly popular. Something in Disguise which was highly similar to her novels was adapted for TV to much success in 1982, and hence it was not a surprise that Howard’s first novel The Light Years, published in 1990 was received with much if not more fanfare. Originally intended to be a trilogy, the novel soon expanded into four novels and ultimately to five novels due to fan clamor for more of the Cazalets. The critical acclaim and popularity that the novels received served to make Howard one the leading novelists of the genre in recent times. The first two novels in the Cazalets series – The Light Years and Marking Time were adapted for TV by the BBC and aired in 2001. Forty five episodes of the same were also adapted for radio by the BBC, and aired on BBC Radio 4 in 2012. The fifth novel came almost a decade after the first four and is a tale of the Cazalet family, their associates, its staff, fellow travelers, in laws and exes in post war 1956. According to the author, the Cazalet series of books was inspired by a need to tell the story of England from the perspective of change in the family rather than the battles fought in WWII.

Elizabeth Howard presents the Cazalets as a normal upper class family in England living in Home Place, Sussex. The family is depicted as having the usual family dramas of dealing with in laws, struggling with business decisions, family values, and trying to define a family identity that seems to change over the thirty decades of the series. The biggest narrative of the series is the floundering business that the author asserts has been ruined by the clashing personalities of the three sons. Their indecisive nature of Rupert the elder son, now in charge is particularly harmful to the business rapidly turning it into a liability. Their refusal to acknowledge the problems that the business is facing means that they are ill equipped for the disaster waiting to happen. In addition to losing their social standing and material circumstances, the Cazalets just like any other family also deal with the minor subversions of life. Edward’s divorce and marriage has one of his daughters become a rich man’ mistress while Teddy now spends most of his time with barmaids. Hugh’s daughter Polly resorts to starting her own wedding reception business in the dilapidated Cazalet home much to the chagrin of the other family members.

The first novel of the Cazalet Chronicles is the highly Popular Light Years, published in 1990. The novel introduces three generations of an upper class English family as they are enjoying their summer holiday in Sussex in 1937 and 1938. It portrays the daily happenings of the Cazalet family including their children, grandchildren, servants, in laws and pets. Nothing is too big or too small as the story portrays the significant events to the downright mundane. The adults discuss the impending war; the chauffeur is driving too slowly; while the children rescue the family’s kitten stuck in a tree. The undertones of incest and adultery that persist throughout the novel hardly change the normal routine of the Cazalet household. While most of the minor characters are never developed fully, Howard has very successfully developed her main characters and offers some great plot development with some insightful depiction of the period. The Light Years is one of the best books if you are a fan of a novel that is full of family drama and a liberal dose of cathartic effect.

The second novel of the Cazalets series is Marking Time, published in 1991. A sequel to the Light Years, the novel follows the Cazalet family in the summer of 1939, a time when Britain was actively involved in the Second World War. The novel sees the Cazalet patriarch and his wife surrounded by their grandchildren in their rural Sussex summer home. The novels characters are engaged in a number of interconnected plots and subplots that play out in the background of the war. Howard tells the narrative of the novel from the perspective of the three older children making the novel brave, funny, and perceptive. She excellently portrays their yearning for adulthood oblivious to the uncertainties and obvious unhappiness of the adults of the people around them. The Cazalets resolutely stick to their aristocratic mentality and daily routines, while momentous events that could change their entire world happen in the background. Whether she is describing the emotions of a teenager coming to terms with the infidelities of her father or describing how hard and tiring it is to run a summer home during the war, Howard skilfully captures the situation. While the book may be seen as having too many characters and subplots, if you like multigenerational sagas, this is one book that will leave you with an in-depth knowledge of particular places and times, and a desire to find out what happens to the Cazalets post the novel.

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