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A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock
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A Future Arrived (edition 1985)

by Phillip Rock

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38None296,716 (3.82)2
Member:unabridgedchick
Title:A Future Arrived
Authors:Phillip Rock
Info:Hodder & Stoughton (1985), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock

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Those who have been following along know that I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, and had every expectation of finding the final book a four star read like the prior two. Sadly, A Future Arrived, while still good, did not quite rise to the level of The Passing Bells and Circles of Time. To be fair, I really wasn't in the mood for a historical fiction novel when I read it, but, still, I stick to my evaluation.

In A Future Arrived, Rock tackles both the year 1930 and the early period of WWII, from 1938 to 1940. Herein lies one of the major weaknesses of the book. These are both historically significant time periods, and the former at least could really benefit from more fiction. However, by combining them into just one volume, even a fairly massive one like this, Rock does both a disservice. Better to have had two more novels in the series or to solely cover the entry into World War II, since that predominates his interest.

The section set in 1930 does include some historical background about the impact of the Great Depression, but comes across largely as a means to introduce a whole swath of new characters. These new figures are predominantly the third generations, grandchildren to Lord and Lady Stanmore, children of the main characters of the previous two novels. The elder Standmores, now in their late 60s to early 70s hardly figure in the plot at all at this juncture.

The new characters are delightful. I really do like every single one of them, but the sheer mass of them was a bit overwhelming. No, it wasn't difficult keeping them all straight, but, since Rock didn't drop the prior main characters entirely, I found the narrative overwhelmed with perspectives. A Future Arrived focuses on far too many characters, especially since I found the sections about the adults boring, as, now that they're all married off, they can apparently only appear for the purposes of boring exposition. The novel feels much more fragmented and distracted than the previous two.

Part of that feeling stems from a change in his writing style. Rock might have made use of ellipses before, but I didn't particularly notice. A Future Arrived is lousy with this particular punctuation. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate the power of the ellipsis, but a little goes a long way. Flip to a page and odds are high that you will find at least one ellipsis, and probably more than one. While sometimes they made sense, they often felt needless, expressing a pause that really added nothing to the flow of the dialogue.

The main themes covered are themselves quite clever, highlighting the real change in morals from the days of the Stanmores to the 1940s. Where a love affair was tawdry and shocking, meriting family disapproval and possibly even expulsion in 1918, by 1938 they're held openly and without shame. The attitudes, like the landscape, has evolved to something more similar to life in 2012 than in 1912. Watching this shift occur through the three novels has been fascinating.

Rock's take on WWII does differ from much of what I've read, focusing almost entirely on the boredom of war. There are a couple of dramatic fight scenes, but mostly he showcases the waiting around, the lack of action. Throughout it feels as though the war has hardly started, even though it really has. While I appreciate that he took a different tack, a focus on the boredom of war turned out to be just as boring as it sounds. I found myself skimming the war passages in an effort to resist falling asleep.

Rock goes a bit crazy pairing everybody off in this installment. It's like he's a yenta or something. He also is really hesitant to kill anybody. As was the case in The Passing Bells, he kills off one major character and that's it. However, it's less dramatic now, since the cast has doubled at this point. Of the three generations of main characters, only ONE dies in the course of 18 years, a couple of which include WWII? Really? To top it all off, the character left single (almost the only person not in a couple by that point) by that death immediately finds a new love on the LAST PAGE OF THE BOOK. I really can't even with that ending.

Despite all of my whining (thanks for letting me get that out), I did enjoy A Future Arrived. Rock's trilogy is a lot of fun, a must for fans of WWI and WWII fiction or of Downton Abbey. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
A Future Arrived deals mostly with the next generation- Ivy's brother Albert, who follows in his brother-in-law Martin's footsteps as a foreign and war correspondent, Colin, Alex's son who leaves America to become a pilot for Britain, and Colin's friend Derek, who attended Charles' private school and joins Colin as a pilot in the war.

The women are represented by Fenton and Winnie's girls- twins Jennifer and Victoria and youngest daughter Kate, some of whom become romantically entangled with the above mentioned fellows, and involved with the war and anti-war efforts.

I liked seeing how these children grew into adults, but I did miss my old friends- Alex and Charles in particular. They do not play much of a role here, but the book would have been easily 1000 pages if Rock were to give all of his previous characters a bigger role.

The girls learned well from their mother Winnie who, although she wished her husband hadn't devoted his career to the military, understood that she fell in love with a soldier, and if she wanted to remain married to him she would have to accept all that comes with that.

Colin and Derek's war experiences are much different from Charles and Fenton's during WWI. WWI was fought in the trenches, up close and personal. As pilots, Colin and Derek saw war from farther away, although Rock writes a few harrowing scenes as the men come into combat contact with the Germans in the air that had me white-knuckled as I read them.

The British were more reluctant to go to war again after their WWI experiences; we see how Chamberlain and Parliament appeased Hitler, willing to ignore Germany's movements into other sovereign nations. It wasn't until Hitler began bombing England that Britain faced facts and fought back.

One thing I liked in particular about this book was the fact that it brought me back to history class; there were so many references to things I had learned- the problems between China and Japan, Mussolini's rise, Haile Selassie, Francisco Franco- it sent me to Google to refresh my memories.

I also liked that Rock showed us how Martin's live radio reports changed how people thought. Once they could hear the sounds of war for themselves, what was happening could no longer be ignored. A similar thing happened when TV reporters showed us the Vietnam War as it was happening; people could see for themselves and no longer believed only what the government told them was going on.

Just like Downton Abbey, we have a large estate, many characters from different classes, romance and sprawling storylines. It also reminded me of John Jakes' North & South books, using war as a backdrop to tell an epic story with fascinating characters. If you miss Downton, Abingdon Pryory is the next best place to be. ( )
  bookchickdi | Mar 8, 2013 |
I am seriously not ready for this trilogy to end. I actually feel melancholy, reluctant to start another book for fear of losing the 'taste' of the novel. (For recaps, see my reviews of the first novel, The Passing Bells, and the second novel, Circles of Time.)

The novel opens similarly to the first book, The Passing Bells, with Lord Stanmore getting dressed for the day, and my heart lifted -- until the scene changed to sadness with the death of a tertiary character. With that mood established, Rock's final novel is a bounce between familiarity, bittersweet loss, and heady hope.

Seven years have passed between the end of the second novel and the start of this one. Those who wanted more time with the 'original' cast might feel some loss at the shifting direction -- I will admit I initially was disappointed -- but the twining connection between the 'new' cast and the other characters, as well as Rock's wonderful writing, sucked me in and I no longer mourned the shifting focus.

This book has the largest scope -- ten years -- from 1930 through 1940 and in that sense, I think it felt a bit rushed. Rock covered six years in The Passing Bells but conveyed, I thought, the unending grind of trench warfare rather well without losing the reader.  I felt the two years covered in the second book was too little -- even though the page length was the same as the first novel! (What can I say, I just want more!)  Still, this isn't an unsatisfying story: threads are tied up, characters come to some concluding arc (whether I like it or not!), and the Grevilles and their beloved Abington Pryory continue to live on, changed.

Our intrepid American reporter Martin is still the moral 'voice' of the novel; his interest in European politics and experience as a war reporter allow him to be a bit of an oracle or Greek chorus here, hinting at what we know will come. Fenton Wood-Lacey, still in the military, returns to the same battlefields where he fought during World War I, again fighting Germany. His daughters are now vibrant and passionate young women, hungry for their own victories, infatuated with soldiers the way the characters from the first novel were.  Lord and Lady Stanmore, the Greville patriarchs, clinging to the past as much as they grab for the future, keep their beloved Abingdon Pryory as their seat.  Rock doesn't forget the working class either: the brother of one of the Greville house maids becomes a main character, eager to change his fortunes the way he saw his sister change hers. 

As with his previous novels, Rock articulates so well the societal shifts in behavior, attitudes, and mores -- and the ways parts of society haven't changed. There's a seen where a character decides to marry a divorcee, and Lady Standmore has to have a frank conversation with the woman about how, pre-war, this marriage would have never happened and how, even now, some society will never accept her. It is in this world that the children bristle -- having grown up in a post-war era of parties, blatant sexuality, explosive politics, economic boom -- and just as they hurtle into adulthood, war approaches.  The bookending of these two conflicts is wonderful/upsetting/moving/cinematic/exciting/so ridiculously sad, and I love/hate Rock for doing so.

The ending was lovely, a note of hope, but I still got teary just remembering all the losses and changes that the characters experienced. (I'm getting a tiny bit teary right now!)  This trilogy definitely makes my top ten for this year -- these books were everything I love about reading -- and I feel the absence of my favorite characters now that I'm done.  I anticipate a reread of these books -- they're that kind of read -- and I hope this trilogy enters into the canon of 'classic' historical fiction. ( )
  unabridgedchick | Feb 21, 2013 |
This is the final volume of the Greville family saga and I must admit I was sorry to see it end. I found myself quite involved with the lives and loves of the Grevilles and their circle of relatives and friends and I felt a loss when I turned the last page. I had, after all been with them for quite a few years.

This chapter takes from where Circles of Time left off - as Hitler was just starting to come on the scene in Germany. Many fear this new voice in Germany but England and France are tired from WWI and don't want to think of another war. We all know the history; this book takes the Grevilles and the next generation through that history.

The reader gets to know the younger generation; Colin - Alexandra's son and his friend, Derek. The three daughters of Fenton Wood-Lacy and young Albert Thaxton - Ivy's brother. Martin Wilke has taken him under his wing and Albert is determined to become a journalist.

Times change but the Pryory goes on, solid into the future. Will it remain?

I will admit that as much as I enjoyed this last book I did find it to be my least favorite of the three. I suspect that it was because it focused on the younger generation. After two books of the older members I was invested and I wanted more of them and less of the characters of which I was less involved. That did not make for a poor read - the history and the writing was as wonderful as the first two books. In fact, I felt such a let down when I turned the last page I wished there were additional books. I truly did not want the saga to end.

Mr. Rock wrote these characters in a way that they got under my skin and I felt they were real - even when I knew darn well they weren't. Even when I didn't like aspects of personalities I still wanted them to succeed. And I suppose that was the lack I felt in this book - too many stories were left unfinished. Particularly with the older characters. Although as I sit and type this and consider the time in which it was written and realize that not all books had tight endings.

So I say goodbye to the Grevilles and move on to other reading. I shall miss them. I really shall. ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Feb 12, 2013 |
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The final installment of the saga of the Grevilles of Abingdon Pryory begins in the early 1930s, as the Jazz Age comes to a shattering end. What follows is a decade of change and uncertainty, as the younger generation comes of age.

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