“Only Time Will Tell” is the first novel of the Clifton Chronicles series written by Jeffrey Archer. The novel depicts the tale of a family across generations, the inter-relations among them and the various future consequences of their deeds.
The story is set in 1920’s describing the life of an infant Harry Clifton. It begins in first person as Harry says ‘I was told that my father was killed in the war’. He had never seen his father Arthur Clifton. Harry is brought up by his mother single-handedly. Also in his family is his uncle Stan who is the sole bread-earner of the house as well as his grandmother.
Young Harry visits the docks everyday as his Uncle works there and learns about the life at sea who wishes that Harry joins him there after school. But then an unexpected scholarship grants him an admission in a school of high-profile boys where Harry makes two best friends Giles Barrington and Deakins.
Massie Clifton (Harry’s mother) starts working day and night in order to fulfil Harry’s dream of going into Bristol Grammar School. But she faces many hardships and tries to hide it from her son. In the meanwhile Harry prepares for the entrance exam of the school so that he could get a scholarship.
Among all this, from his childhood Harry is guided by Captain Jack Turrant, a retired officer living near the docks and recuperating his old sins. He sculpts Harry in the best possible and helps him to prepare for his tests and various challenges Harry comes across in life.
Giles Barrington, Harry’s best friend is the son of Hugo Barrington who is the owner of the shipping company where Stan works. The concealed past of Hugo as well as his hatred for Harry doesn’t get appreciated by anyone in his family.
As the story unfolds, Harry comes to know his father wasn’t actually killed in the war. And the awful truth leads him to various questions, Was Arthur actually his father or is he the eldest son of the person who owns the shipping line?
The story includes a colourful cast which have their lives mingled with Harry’s in some way or the other. The story takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry in adulthood has to choose whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany.
The author takes us on a journey which is full of twist and turns, mixed with a sense of simplicity which I most appreciate. The novel is certainly a must read and one of its kind.