“ALL CHANGE” is one of those novels that reveals a rich, colorful, and vivid canvas studded with a variety of interesting, complex, and compelling cha“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. ...more
Elizabeth Jane Howard (EJH), one of my favorite writers, is someone truly deserving of wider recognition for her extraordinary literary talent. With tElizabeth Jane Howard (EJH), one of my favorite writers, is someone truly deserving of wider recognition for her extraordinary literary talent. With this memoir, she has shown herself to be unflinchingly honest about herself, her family, friends and acquaintances, as well as life as she came to know it. Indeed, the reason for EJH penning this memoir with the title "Slipstream" is because, as she states plainly to the reader, "I feel as though I have lived most of my life in the slipstream of experience. Often I have had to repeat the same disastrous situation several times before I got the message. ... I do not write this book as a wise, mature, finished person who has learned all the answers, but rather as someone who ... is still trying to change, find things out and do a bit better with them."
EJH was born in 1923, the oldest of 3 and the only daughter in a middle-class family where sons were favored, especially by her mother, with whom she tried all her life to have a close relationship. Her mother, before marrying her father, had had ambitions to be a ballet dancer, having once danced in the corps de ballet of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. But upon meeting EJH's father, a First World War combat veteran who was ruggedly handsome with an infectious charm and ease with people, she put aside all thoughts of an independent career to fulfill the expected role of wife and mother and all that that entailed for women of her generation.
EJH, as she was growing up, was also expected to accept her allotted slot as a female in a family where modesty, restraint, and self-effacement were fostered and expected to be practiced as a matter-of-course. “I was very well aware that [Robin, her oldest brother] was the favourite – with our first nanny, with the Yorkshire cook who adored him, but above all with our mother. All I can remember feeling about this is a sense of inferiority. I was thin, with thick brown lamentably straight hair and a sallow complexion; my brother was clearly more loveable. His being musical was also much in his favour: both my parents, above any other art, revered music and I had no discernible talent for it.”
EJH was largely privately educated and speaks very candidly of many of the insecurities she had as a child, adolescent, and young adult. It became increasingly clear to me as I read deeper into this memoir, that she was trying so hard to find herself, develop talents as a way of asserting her own identity and finding personal fulfilment, and establish friendships with people she could trust and love. I was deeply moved also by her honesty and her observations of her family. EJH as a child, had a very close relationship with her father, who always treated her with great affection. Then as she entered into adolescence, that relationship became somewhat strained and remote (the reasons for that I leave to the reader of this review to discover for him/herself). EJH and her father would only become closer again when she herself was married to her first husband Peter Scott (the son of the late Arctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott of the ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1911-12 who was a naval officer who distinguished himself through his Second World War service and later as a celebrated artist, illustrator, and naturalist), with whom she would have her only child, Nicola.
Elizabeth Jane Howard married for the first time in 1942, age 19, had her daughter the following year, and struggled for a time to have careers in acting and modelling. The memoir is studded with photos from various phases of her life and it is easy to see how EJH as a young woman had many men who desired her. Despite her own diffidence and unease about her own appearance, EJH was a very attractive and charming woman. After leaving Peter Scott in 1946 (they divorced 5 years later), she found a job as a publishing editor. Here she began to flourish and develop relationships with a variety of people in the artistic and literary communities. These were the years --- from the late 1940s and well into the 1960s --- in which EJH began to develop her talents as a novelist, book reviewer, and short story writer. She had lovers by the score (not to suggest that EJH was an 'easy woman'; she wasn't; she was a woman who, by own her admission, "was still at the stage when my sense of self rested almost entirely upon how somebody else saw me. I wanted his affection and interest more than anything else in the world."), was briefly married for a second time, travelled fairly widely, and met during the early 1960s at the Cheltenham Literary Festival (which she helped organize) the writer Kingsley Amis, who would later figure prominently (for good and ill) in her life. They married in 1965.
EJH shares with the reader a lot of the ups and downs of her marriage to Amis. She said that his disciplined approach to his writing much impressed her as well as his bonhomie when he was in a light and generous mood. But, as the marriage went on, his drinking grew to excess, and Amis came to resent EJH. As far as I was concerned, the man deserved a good slap from time to time! Anyway, I'm not going to speak any further about that. Read "SLIPSTREAM" and you will marvel at the kind of life Elizabeth Jane Howard was able to establish, through much struggle. She impressed me as a smart, at times shrewd, discerning, fun-loving, and compassionate person.
One more thing I like to say about this memoir that I especially liked was a listing EJH made, between the Preface and the first chapter, in a section entitled 'Cast of Characters' in which she identifies many of the distinguished and famous persons she came to know throughout her life.
"SLIPSTREAM" is a memoir that I will long cherish. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to read memoirs....more
"Falling" is not only a novel that delves into the anatomy of a seduction. It is also masterful in that it gives the reader access into both the inner"Falling" is not only a novel that delves into the anatomy of a seduction. It is also masterful in that it gives the reader access into both the inner and outer lives of the two people involved: Henry Kent and Daisy Langrish. Elizabeth Jane Howard fleshes them out with the skill that Vermeer, Goya, Manet, and John Singer Sargent showed to such fine effect on canvas.
Henry, the son of a gardener who never showed him love, learned to be resourceful early in life by trusting to his own wits. He developed a proficiency for discerning the emotional states of women --- preferably ones with wealth and status --- and exploiting them for his own benefit. He had this charm and savoir faire, which he was not abash to speak of, from time to time, with the reader. (The author has most chapters titled either "Henry" or "Daisy", so the reader always knows who is occupying center stage.)
Daisy, who grew up with an aunt ("Jess") who gave her unselfish and unconditional love, had 2 failed marriages, and had turned to playwriting (and scriptwriting) for solace and as a way of making a livelihood for her and her daughter. Eventually, Daisy's work became her life. She learned to be self-sufficient and to view trust as a weakness. So when Henry first approached her at her country cottage about doing some gardening work for her, she was wary. But from the bleakness of an English winter to the warmth of the following summer, he steadily (not minding a few missteps, which he quickly covered up) worked his way into Daisy's heart and affections.
What is remarkable about the development of Daisy's and Henry's relationship over time is how subtly and cleverly it unfolds. The reader can see both sides clearly and make up his/her mind about Henry and Daisy. Here's an example from what Daisy herself had to say after she has been all but won over to Henry:
"Am I in love? It is three weeks now since we went to bed; we have been lovers for twenty-one days and nights. He has continued to love me with the same wholehearted emotion and kindness and I have graduated from what I, somewhat defensively, described as some sort of old virgin to what he has described as a normal sensual woman for whom sex has become a joyous necessity. Indeed, I think I have become more sexual than he, but when I said this to him, he laughed and said it was because I had been starved for so long. ‘Not just of sex,’ he had added, ‘but of everything that goes with it. My greatest pleasure is giving you pleasure.’
“I am afraid that I do not give him enough back, but I have noticed that he often makes me want him and then withholds his favours --- teases me --- and that he certainly enjoys that. Sometimes he starts that game in the afternoon and then we go upstairs, but more often he deliberately excites me hours before he will take me to bed. I have begun to enjoy this game. It is wonderful to want him and to have no shame, no self-conscious reservations at all. ‘You trust me now, don’t you?’ he said yesterday. And I do. Even when he hurt me a little at the beginning, he was so aware of it and so tender… Those are the moments when I do feel love for him.” (pp. 300-301)
Henry, all through the novel, shows how calculating and cunning he can be, showing how attuned he can be to a woman's wants and needs once he knows that she has become susceptible to his shows of care, patience, and his apparently inexhaustible well of kindness and understanding:
"She was silent all the way back, and I was content to savour the salt of her tears from her mouth. I was light-headed with the exhilaration of that first kiss --- are not all first kisses unlike any others? --- and the ceertainty that I was on the brink of achieving all that I had schemed and dreamed about for so long.
"This was right. That night, she invited me into her bed." (p. 274)
Talk about a smooth operator!
To find out what happens between Henry and Daisy, I invite you now reading this review to take the plunge and see what ensues. So, hold on tight, because you're going to be in for quite a rocky ride.