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IN PRAISE OF A TRULY FINE NOVEL

ALL CHANGE -  Elizabeth Jane Howard

 

"ALL CHANGE” is one of those novels that reveals a rich, colorful, and vivid canvas studded with a variety of interesting, complex, and compelling characters whose lives tug at the heart, bring out ripples of ticklish laughter, and captures the reader’s interest. It is the fifth novel in The Cazalet Chronicles, which are set in Britain and span from the 1930s to the 1950s.

The novel begins with the death, in the late spring of 1956, of 'the Duchy', who, at 89, was the matriarch of the Cazalets. Her daughter, Rachel, was at her side, as ever faithful, steadfast, loving, supportive, and wholly unselfish. Her brothers --- Hugh, Edward, and Rupert (varying in age from mid to late 50s) --- along with their families (many of whom will be familiar to readers of the previous 4 novels in the series) are caught up in a series of challenges and jarring changes in their lives in a world in which they feel woefully ill-equipped to live and thrive. Rachel, too, is faced with difficulties in her relationship with the love of her life, and with the possible loss of all that she has held dear. Elizabeth Jane Howard is a fantastic writer who knows how to make a word, a phrase, or a paragraph resonate with the reader in each chapter (which is named for a specific character or characters and serves to shed a special focus on the person or persons it highlights).

 

Once the reader becomes immersed in “ALL CHANGE”, he/she won’t want to leave. The lives of the people it relates become real and tangible. Indeed, for all its 592 pages, I fairly raced through this novel, never feeling bored or bogged down by minutae or tiresome details.

The Cazalets are people that I came to deeply care about in the 11 years I’ve known them. And now that I’ve finished reading “ALL CHANGE”, I feel utterly bereft. Elizabeth Jane Howard passed away last January. So, there will be no more Cazalet novels. While this causes me sadness and frustration --- because I would have loved to see many of the younger characters mature and flower in future decades --- I am grateful to have had the pleasure of this gift which Elizabeth Jane Howard has left us as her literary legacy.