Book review: Marking Time

Elizabeth Jane HowardSeptember 2, 1939: Germany has invaded Poland and, for the Cazalet family in London and Sussex, war seems imminent. The story is told from 1939 to 1941 from the viewpoints of three Cazalet cousins, teenagers Polly, Louise and Clary. Marking Time is second in the five-book series The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

We see them growing up quickly, forced to face war and death before their time, watch their parents struggle with ordinary life and relationships and health crises which continue despite the fighting. One day a German bomber crashes into a nearby field and Christopher, a pacifist, runs out to prevent the local men from shooting the injured Germans. Afterwards, Polly and Christopher go for a walk. Polly thinks “how odd it was that when one wanted everything to be good with somebody, one started not telling them everything.” They come to understand that their parents are not just parents, but people too with their own feelings and worries. Polly wonders if “concealment and deceit were a necessary part of human relationships. Because if they were, she was going to be pretty bad at them.”

Louise is at acting school but struggles to play a character ‘in lust’ as she’s a virgin and unsure of the finer details. Then she meets a painter. Clary continues in Sussex, having lessons with Polly and growing to like and respect their tutor Miss Milliment, but she worries about her younger brother Neville who runs away from prep school. And all the time, the adults keep secrets.

Click here to read my review of The Light Years, the first book in The Cazalet Chronicles.

If you like ‘Marking Time’, try these other novels about complicated families:-
‘A Thousand Acres’ by Jane Smiley
‘The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes’ by Anna McPartlin
‘The Girls’ by Lisa Jewell

‘Marking Time’ by Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Cazalet Chronicles #2 [UK: Pan] Buy now

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