In conclusion

In conclusion

Lead review

In conclusion

It’s over. The Clifton Chronicles. After six instalments of the same, the Cliftons and the Barringtons had almost become a part of our lives. Now, with This Was A Man, the concluding part of the series, we have to bid goodbye to them all.

It’s hard to accept the fact that our love-hate relationship with the various characters of the saga has ended. We will definitely miss them. The master storyteller that he is, Jeffrey Archer has given the series a truly fitting climax. And how!

Even as the final story unfolds, Giles Barrington learns the truth about his wife Karin from the Cabinet Secretary. His doubts are finally put to rest. He no longer has to wonder whether Karin truly loves him or is just a spy who used him to get what she wanted. That settled, we are now taken through the latest in the lives of the other characters comprising Harry, Emma, Sebastian, Jessica, and of course, the wily Lady Virginia. And there are shocking revelations aplenty, as also killer cliffhangers and surprising twists in the tale that leave our jaws hanging.

Harry embarks on the last leg of his literary journey by setting out to write his magnum opus, while Emma takes up the post of Undersecretary of State for Health in the Lords to make the new National Health Bill a reality under the leadership of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Sebastian, on the other hand, becomes the chairman of Farthings Kaufman Bank following Hakim Bishara’s unexpected resignation for personal reasons, and Giles now sits in the opposition benches after his party’s defeat in the polls, strategising on scoring political points against his sister.

This is not it. We find the studious Jessica, unlike herself, falling for the charms of a rich fellow student in the Slade School of Fine Art, neglecting her course work, and getting expelled, forcing Grace Barrington to step in to her rescue. And of course, our Lady Virginia doesn’t disappoint us in this final chapter too — her wicked ways give us ample reasons to detest her. Her mission in life continues to deceive the gullible for her own material gains, and her latest victim happens to be the rich Duke of Hertford, who she even marries.

As we turn the pages, we sense the story proceeding along unimaginable lines, piquing our curiosity. Some new characters are introduced, like Kelly Mellor, the long-estranged daughter of Desmond Mellor, the man who had plotted to bring Sebastian and his chairman Hakim Bishara down, to take over Farthings. The lives of the various characters are tested through family bonding, friendship, and intrigue. The long-pending truth about Harry and Emma’s parents is also revealed, and it sure comes as a huge relief to us, readers, who had always wondered about it throughout the series.

One word of caution, though. The climax is unfortunate, and will probably rob you of your sleep, for a little while anyway, as one of our favourite characters is diagnosed with a debilitating health issue.

Well, that’s action-packed This Was A Man in brief, that takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Proceeding at a frenetic pace, it proves to be a page-turner right from the word ‘go’. There’s action, mystery, drama, romance, and above all, politics. All the ingredients seasoned Jeffrey Archer fans have gotten used to. And of course, spellbinding narration that only goes to prove that Jeffrey Archer is not merely a confident storyteller, but also a wily entertainer who knows how to keep his readers hooked to his books.

To step into his stories is to enter a thrillingly familiar and enticing world of characters who never fail to amaze us. He has lent such great charm to his characters that they linger in our minds long after we have closed the book. Not surprising, since most of his characters are inspired by people he’s either known or met in real life. By his own admission, “I am Harry, my wife is Emma, and my mother is Maisie. My family is all there in Clifton Chronicles. I have got them all in.” And, This Was A Man almost seems like Jeffrey Archer’s affectionate nod to a story well told.

On the flip side, this title requires you having read the previous books in the series to fully savour it. Maybe that is Clifton Chronicles’s biggest success — enticing new readers into its fold. Well, you have to read the entire series to find out.

This was a Man
Jeffrey Archer
Pan Macmillan
2016, pp 432, RS 599

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