cover image Marking Time

Marking Time

Elizabeth Jane Howard. Pocket Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70909-9

Readers of The Light Years , Howard's earlier novel about the numerous members of the upper-class Cazalet family, their servants, friends and relatives, will find satisfaction in this well-written sequel. In the summer of 1939, Britain has entered WW II, and the nine young Cazalet cousins are gathered for the duration under the rural Sussex roof of their grandparents, the indomitable Brig and his wife, Duchy. The appealing characters engage in a series of interrelated plots and subplots, and each family unit acts out a personal drama against the ever-present backdrop of the war. The children, especially the three older girls (from whose viewpoints much of the narrative is told), are particularly well defined; they are perceptive, funny and brave as they mark time toward adulthood, a state they long to achieve despite the obvious unhappiness and uncertainties of the adults around them. Momentous events may be occurring on a worldwide scale, but the Cazalets cling valiantly to a rigid daily routine and a stiff-upper-lip mentality. Whether describing the backbreaking labor required to run a large house during the war years or examining the feelings of a young girl's growing awareness of her father's infidelities, Howard captures the moment with penetrating accuracy. Perhaps the book has too many minor themes and characters, but the reader of multi-generational sagas will come away with a real knowledge of a particular time and place, and a desire to know what lies ahead for the Cazalets. (Aug.)