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The Passing Bells (Passing Bells #1)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  853 ratings  ·  185 reviews
Before there was Downton Abbey, there was Abingdon Pryory...

The guns of August are rumbling throughout Europe in the summer of 1914, but war has not yet touched Abingdon Pryory. Here, at the grand home of the Greville family, the parties, dances, and romances play on. Alexandra Greville embarks on her debutante season while brother Charles remains hopelessly in love with t...more
Paperback, 516 pages
Published December 4th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1978)
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261st out of 1,388 books — 2,696 voters
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Best World War I Fiction
11th out of 81 books — 84 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,745)
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Laurel
I love a good mystery. I just didn’t know that I would be so personally engaged in one for over thirty years.

In 1980, a read a book about an aristocratic English family during WWI that I absolutely adored. I was so enthusiastic about it that I promptly loaned it to my best friend who never thought of it again until about a year later when I asked for it back. She had no idea where my copy was. I was devastated. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to write down the title or author. I could only rememb...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Given the Downton Abbey craze, I was apprehensive about this trilogy: was it any good or just a marketing ploy to cash in while DA is hot?

Thankfully, happily, awesomely, this book is good. Great. Another meaty hist fic that satisfies. This review, however, is probably going to be a hot mess, because how do I describe what is contained in these 500+ pages without just squeeing stupidly? Here goes:

The novel follows a few families and tangential individuals from 1914 through 1920, and at first, the...more
Misfit
England, 1914. The world is slowly changing, but not so much for the residents of Abingdon Pryory. Anthony Greville, 9th earl of Stanmore, married a rich American heiress to wife to keep the estate and his lifestyle as tradition demands. Their eldest son is in love with the wrong sort of woman (her father’s in trade!), but otherwise things run as they always have – both upstairs and down. But, the sabers are rattling in Germany and everything begins to change, and the walls between the haves and...more
Dorcas
I know a lot of people love this book but it just wasn't for me.

I found it rather slow and choppy and the characters cardboard. I really didn't care what happened to them and when its WW1 and people might die and that's your reaction, well, there's really no point in continuing.

But because I absolutely looooove the cover art (theres sound reasoning for you :) I fully intended to slog through it regardless, but the third F bomb sealed it for me (and for those who care, the profanity is moderatel...more
Kevin Symmons
I am just now discovering that this novel and its sequels are more than 30 years old... long before Downton Abbey and WWI came into vogue. Nonetheless, it is one of the best written, most vivid novels I have ever read. Mr. Rock's deep characterizations, political insights and sad, bitter truthes are beyond classic. As a DA fan, a reader of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett and re-reader of Barbara Tugman's Guns of August recently I found this sadly honest and completely disarming. I cannot recall wh...more
CLM
First in a trilogy set in England just before and during World War I, depicting an aristocratic family and those below stairs who serve them.
http://perfectretort.blogspot.com/201...

Readers seeking other Downton Abbey-like books can check out my list here: http://perfectretort.blogspot.com/201...
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Jan 14, 2013 Christina (A Reader of Fictions) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who enjoy WWI fiction
First published in 1978, The Passing Bells has gotten a new lease on life, thanks to the popularity of the BBC show Downton Abbey. As you can see from the description, this book is being marketed as similar to Downton, and, thankfully, there is some truth in that. However, the focus in The Passing Bells is much more on history than on romantic drama. The Passing Bells reads more like Herman Wouk's Winds of War in a Downton-like setting.

The Passing Bells gets off to a rather slow start, introduci...more
Bree (AnotherLookBook)
A historical saga centered around a household on an English estate in the months leading up to WWI and the difficult years of the war itself, when no member of the household above or below stairs goes unaffected. 1978.

See the full review at Another look book

Well, I pretty much devoured that...and it's not a short book, either! I wasn't expecting the book to take place mostly during war time, but I think it was actually a better, more meaningful read for how it depicted the horrific losses of the...more
Katherine Gypson
I didn't know quite what to expect from "The Passing Bells." The comparisons to Downton Abbey drew me in but the potboiler description on Amazon and the cheesy covers from the original 1970s release almost kept me from requesting it for Christmas. I thought I might be getting myself into a John Jakes-type saga with thin historical value. Fortunately, I did request it - "The Passing Bells" is one of the best novels I've read about the Edwardian Era/WWI. I'm certain that almost all readers will fi...more
MaryannC.Book Fiend
An excellent read, why did I wait so long to read it?
Michele
4.5 stars. This older Phillip Rock novel (first published in the late 1970s) is the first of a trilogy being re-issued this year in light of the enormous popularity of the PBS series, Downton Abbey. The the television series, The Passing Bells follows a English Earl's family and servants as World War I descends and changes everyone's way of life. Not only were social conventions upended as a result of the war, but the very fabric holding society together was rent in two. Those going off to war,...more
Marcie
I read The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock as part of a read-along. I was drawn to the book because I love Downton Abbey, and this book is set around the same time period. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting this book to be like, maybe more romantic than anything, but it was different than I imagined. The Passing Bells focuses on the Grevilles family, not only the immediate family but also the household staff. When War is declared the household breaks apart and goes in different directions t...more
Ruth
In the summer of 1914, Europe stands poised on the brink of any abyss, rumors of war poised to become a reality. But in England, the aristocratic Greville family is thoroughly occupied with more mundane, familial matters -- the romantic entanglements of the heir, Charles, and the upcoming social season that will see the debut of only daughter Alexandra. Fenton Wood-Lacy, eldest son of the architect responsible for restoring Abingdon Pryory, faces losing his commission in the Coldstream Guards an...more
Sarah
"Oh damn," he whispered fervently, tossing his cigarette into a weed-choked drainage ditch.

...

There were times when he despised the uselessness of his profession in an age when war was a virtual impossibility.


On June 28th 1914, the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated; an event which soon plunged the Western world into 'the war to end all wars'. This war was catastrophic, a Total War which ended the lives of many millions and touched the lives of everyone who lived in a nation...more
Margaret Sullivan
After reading two different bloggers squeeing over the re-release of this book, I had to give it a try. It was, as advertised, a really good read.

It is being sold as "for those who like Downton Abbey" and while it touches on some of the same themes, such as the breakdown of the British social system after WWI, it is a great deal less sentimental and soapy than DA.

The action revolves around the Grevilles, the family of the Earl of Stanmore at Abingdon Pryory, and their relatives and friends. Lik...more
Marcia
"Before there was Downton Abbey, there was Abingdon Pryory..."

I found this book in Chapters and was naturally drawn by that proclamation on front cover. Yes, I should have realized that this book was just making useless claims, but being drawn to all things Downtonesque (yes, I just invented that word), I decided to give this novel a chance.

So this wasn't that bad of a book. I thought it was a newly written work due to the reference to Downton Abbey, but instead I discovered that it was written...more
Eszter
This book has repeatedly been recommended to Downton Abbey fans; also the front cover of the new edition says: "Before Downton Abbey, there was Abingdon Pryory..." As I am a hardcore Downton Abbey fan and upon reading Laurel Ann's review, I knew I must read this trilogy. And, I ordered all three books without hesitation, because I prefer reading all parts of a series, even if it's very likely that I won't love all parts equally. Anyway, I am currently reading the third instalment; so, I don't ha...more
Margaret
This is the first of Phillip Rock's trilogy about England from just prior to WW I to pre WWII. I loved this book! The sketches from the WWI trenches are among the best I have read. The story is so real, the characters well conceived and developed. Historically accurate and moving, this is a very satisfying book! I am looking forward to the second volume.
I just finished Book II of Ken Follett's 20th century trilogy, and found this much more readable and interesting. I was reminded if Sebastian...more
Amanda
As a huge Downton Abbey fan, I was interested in reading this novel, as many reviews claimed it was VERY similar. There were some similarities (particularly in the beginning of the novel), however, I found that Rock chose to focus more on WWI and the battles/how the war changed people.

At first, the cast of characters is a bit daunting - I found it hard to keep track of who was who because I was only able to read a few pages at a time due to real life commitments. Once you get the cast down, the...more
Heidi
This is not a "great" book, but as is clear from my five stars I really loved it. It is about three young men in England right before World War I, and goes halfway through World War I, describing their war experiences and their love relationships. There was something terribly moving to me about these youths on the precipice of the disaster that was World War I, soon to be caught up in the dreadful maw of trench warfare and be forever changed by it. The effect of war on one of the boys, a young,...more
G.G.
Very affecting novel about the effects of World War I on a microcosm of the British upper classes, both aristocratic and military. Touches all bases: the "last summer" of 1914, the Great Retreat in the face of the German advance into France later that year, the catastrophe of Gallipoli, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, shell shock, and the horrors of wartime nursing; Alexandra Greville's experiences in a field hospital near Saint-Omer are graphically conveyed. Goodreads user CLM (http:/...more
Allyssa
I am relatively certain that Julian Fellowes read this book and then incorporated some of the major themes and characters into Downton Abbey, trusting that no one would ever notice. You were wrong, Mr. Fellowes. You were wrong. The Passing Bells is written in pre-WWI and wartime England, France, and other various European countries. The story follows the lives of those who live at Abingdon Pryory, both upstairs and down. There is a young heir going off to war, some gold-digging men, a rebellious...more
Julie
I love Downton Abbey, and this book was billed on Amazon as "before there was Downton Abbey, there was the Greville Family Saga." So I bought the series. There was some similarity to Downton Abbey, but the basic difference is that the Downton Abbey characters are likable, and there were few likable characters in this series. After introducing a multitude of characters, the central figure mostly emerges to be Fenton, and fortunately, he was one of the few likable characters. Since I bought the ot...more
Barb
At 275 pages into this book I'm giving up and moving on to something else. The story never pulled me in, the characters felt flat and under developed and there just wasn't any tension to pull me through another 225 pages. I thought it was going to be great but it wasn't great for me. I'm also not a huge fan of Downton Abbey.
Mo
3 1/2 stars

Much of this book was detailed information about WWI, which is not really my thing. However, I enjoyed the book in spite of that. I will look for the other 2 books in the trilogy because now that the war is over, I would expect (hope) to enjoy them even more than this one.
Alicia Prevost
I think this book is more of a 4.5 but...I loved the last half so much that I bumped it up.

My best friend recommended this book to me and I generally love every book she's recommended so I trusted her on this one.

And at first I wasn't sure. While I loved the characters right away (especially Fenton), I found the whole thing a little draggy and slow moving. I knew the war was coming and while everything was leading up to it, it felt like it was taking forever to get here. It was just...slow. The...more
Emily
So good. SO GOOD! I thought it would be just like Downton Abbey, but it's mostly about World War I. It's so GOOD! Sorry I can't be more verbose than that. Just read it! It totally inspired me to learn more about the Great War. I can't wait to read the next two books.
Sarah Townsend
Oh dear. I read the reviews of this book and thought I would give it a go. But I have not read beyond the first chapter; it is too obvious that the author is American. He writes of the new railroad and spells the male name Jamie with an extra i. Of course the nationality of an author should be immaterial if they have done enough research, refrain from using anachronisms and ensure their characters behave in a way that is appropriate to the time and place in which the novel is set. If one wants t...more
Magistra
This is being marketed for Downton Abbey fans and while I understand why (Earl of a great country estate with an American wife, a changing culture due to World War I, upstairs and downstairs starting to blend, etc), this book is much, much more. The author delves more into the war itself--the battles, the inglorious details on the battlefield and off, the difficulties. I found myself reading up on various WWI battles in order to better understand the events in the book. I would have given it 4 1...more
Simone St James
Wow, I loved this! The first few chapters take a while to get going, but then I was sucked into this family's saga as they experience World War I. I couldn't put it down. I'm off to read the next two in the trilogy.
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Clean Reads: the passing bells 1 25 Feb 16, 2014 06:40PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please fix total # of pages 7 176 Jan 02, 2013 05:15PM  
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Phillip George Rock was born in Los Angeles on 30 July 1927. He grew up in Beverly Hills and England, returned to America in 1940, and served in the U.S. Navy towards the end of World War II.

His first on-screen credit was for Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), directed by John Sturges and starring William Holden and Eleanor Parker. Rock then concentrated on writing novels and, in 1967, published his...more
More about Phillip Rock...
Circles of Time (Passing Bells, #2) A Future Arrived (Passing Bells, #3) Dirty Harry Hickey & Boggs The Cheyenne Social Club

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