Review: A Future Arrived

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Future ArrivedA Future Arrived by Phillip Rock
Series: Passing Bells #3
Published by William Morrow on February 5, 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 450
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours

The final installment of the saga of the Grevilles of Abingdon Pryory begins in the early 1930s, as the dizzy gaiety of the Jazz Age comes to a shattering end. What follows is a decade of change and uncertainty, as the younger generation, born during or just after the "war to end all wars," comes of age.

American writer Martin Rilke has made his journalistic mark, earning worldwide fame with his radio broadcasts, and young Albert Thaxton seeks to follow in his footsteps as a foreign correspondent. Derek Ramsey, born only weeks after his father fell in France, and Colin Ross, a dashing Yankee, leave their schoolboy days behind and enter fighter pilot training as young men. The beautiful Wood-Lacy twins, Jennifer and Victoria, and their passionate younger sister, Kate, strive to forge independent paths, while learning to love—and to let go.

In their heady youth and bittersweet growth to adulthood, they are the future—but the shadows that touched the lives of the generation before are destined to reach out to their own.

First Sentence: “Spring came at last after a winter of snow and icy winds that had sent trees crashing in the tangled depths of Leith Wood and had blocked the narrow country roads with drifts.”

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.

Favorite Quote:

“‘War,’ he said to Albert, ‘is truly the province of madness.'”

10 responses to “Review: A Future Arrived”

  1. It’s too bad that this one didn’t live up to the other ones for you. I often feel bogged down when there are too many characters in novels and this series sounds like they come in droves but none ever go away. Glad that overall you still managed to enjoy it though, just not as much as the others.

    Also, yay! You finished it!

  2. I’m sorry this was somewhat of a disappointment. As a huge fan of WWII fiction, I suspect I’d be peeved by the amount of info and the HUGE time period covered in this one. Two books would probably have worked better.
    Anyway, the first two books sound very interestind, and I suppose after reading them, I’ll have to read this one as well.
    Great review.

  3. Amy says:

    It’s too bad that you didn’t like this as much as the previous books, but at least you still did enjoy it enough. I hate when stuff gets boring and I find myself skimming sections. I’m not a huge historical fan, so this series doesn’t appeal to me, but I’m glad that in general you enjoyed it.

  4. Kayla Beck says:

    This is set in the wrong time period for me, but you make the first two books sound interesting. I am not a fan of having a lot of characters, so I doubt I’d ever make it as far as this book if I ever started the series.

    As for your ending rating, you sounded almost like me with the rant and then giving it 3 stars. 🙂

  5. trish says:

    I just started Downton Abbey last week, so I’m pumped to start this series!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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