Review: Circles of Time

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: Circles of TimeCircles of Time by Phillip Rock
Series: Passing Bells #2
Published by William Morrow on January 2, 2013
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 425
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours

A generation has been lost on the Western Front. The dead have been buried, a harsh peace forged, and the howl of shells replaced by the wail of saxophones as the Jazz Age begins. But ghosts linger—that long-ago golden summer of 1914 tugging at the memory of Martin Rilke and his British cousins, the Grevilles.

From the countess to the chauffeur, the inhabitants of Abingdon Pryory seek to forget the past and adjust their lives to a new era in which old values, social codes, and sexual mores have been irretrievably swept away. Martin Rilke throws himself into reporting, discovering unsettling political currents, as Fenton Wood-Lacy faces exile in faraway army outposts. Back at Abingdon, Charles Greville shows signs of recovery from shell shock and Alexandra is caught up in an unlikely romance. Circles of Time captures the age as these strongly drawn characters experience it, unfolding against England's most gracious manor house, the steamy nightclubs of London's Soho, and the despair of Germany caught in the nightmare of anarchy and inflation. Lives are renewed, new loves found, and a future of peace and happiness is glimpsed—for the moment.

First Sentence: “He drove up to Flanders in the early summer of 1921 knowing that it would be for the last time.”

Due to some complications with the shipping of the second and third books in this series, my tour dates got pushed back. As such it has been over a month since I read The Passing Bells. That’s enough time for a lot of the little details to go rushing out of my head. Thankfully, who was who came back quite quickly. Circles of Time is just as enjoyable, both from a family drama perspective and a historical perspective as the first book in the series.

Fiction set during WWI and WWII abounds, but there’s a definite shortage of works that bridge the gap between the two. Circles of Time covers the years 1921-1923, the post-war period in which Europe tries to rebuild and find its footing in this new world. The first half of the novel focuses primarily on the disconnect between the modern lifestyle of the 1920s and the old-fashioned values embodied by old estates and money, like Abingdon Pryory.

The conflict between modern sensibilities and tradition comes up in a lot of ways, especially in the romance. Where marriages of convenience, made for financial concerns or to obtain a title, ruled the upper classes before the war, more and more couples are marrying for love, even if it offends the family. Alexandra is the best example of this. Her marriage to a Scottish doctor just barely before she became pregnant resulted in a rift with her family, who cannot except that a lady would have an affair with a married man or almost have a child out of wedlock. Increasingly, love is winning out over social concerns. Romantic and family drama comprise most of the first half, and I found Alexandra’s arc in particular quite touching.

In the postwar period, there’s also a move towards the acknowledgement of just how awful the war was for everyone. War was once this glamorous thing, romanticized and considered an honorable death for a man. WWI, with its trench warfare and unbelievable death toll, was nothing but a mindless slaughter. Martin Rilke’s story arc deals with the tension between those determined to cover up the senselessness of most of the fighting and those who think the truth should out.

The second half of Circles of Time changes gears to focus almost entirely on post WWI Germany, during the years of the unstable Weimar Republic, reparations, and Hitler’s initial rise to prominence. The Weimar years are really sad, because France’s desire for reparations destroyed the German economy, which printed off money like it was going out of style to pay the French. That brought about rampant inflation to the degree that money no longer had any meaning. The inflation resulted in desperation in the people, and the desire for a leader to make things better. Then came Hitler. I’ve not seen this period in fiction before, and, as it’s one of my favorite eras to study, I loved reading about it here. However, those who are less into history will probably be disappointed in the change in tone and focus from the more Downton-esque first half.

For those who enjoyed The Passing Bells, Circles of Time will not be a disappointment. I’m excited to finish up the trilogy this week.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I view almost everything with a degree of amusement—bitter amusement most of the time. Perhaps it’s because I’m quicker than most people. I grasp the heart of things while others are still fumbling around the edges.'”

10 responses to “Review: Circles of Time”

  1. Amy says:

    Fabulous review chick!! I am not much of a historical fiction reader, though I do occasionally enjoy them. This sounds like a great series, but not for me.

    • Christina says:

      Historical isn’t everyone’s genre, I know. Especially the sprawling ones like this that are serious about diving into the historical events. But I love it!

  2. I’m not a historical fan, we know this, but I always admire how many different genres you read & legitimately enjoy, it’s really cool. This sounds like it deals with a lot of issues and is possibly something you were looking for in the historical genre but weren’t getting. Happy you liked it so much!

    • Christina says:

      Haha, I am so broad-minded. I love all of the things. You would hate this, though. It’s a super historical historical, if that makes sense!

  3. I have been gushing about this series since finishing it – recommending it all over the place. Definitely some of my favorites so far this year.

    • Christina says:

      They’re seriously great historical fiction. The only thing I’m lacking is emotional involvement. Also, I love that they don’t feel dated at all!

  4. Giselle says:

    What’s with all the historicals lately missy? *eyes you warily*. You trying to convert me? Ha! I don’t always like to read series because I always forget both wtf the story is about, and my connection to any of the characters by the time I read the sequel–especially when it’s a whole year bc its not out yet. This sounds like a solid historical series though, and while I’m not into historicals I (for some reason) love it when it’s about the war or pre-post war. Hitler is a fascinating son of a bitch! haha

    • Christina says:

      Hahahaha, no, I’m not. I’m just celebrating MY love of them. Have I really read that many historicals recently? *ponders*

      Hitler IS a fascinating SOB. That is so true. There are so many fascinating personalities during that period. It’s why I love to read about it endlessly.

  5. trish says:

    I love WWI history, as well as Downton Abbey type of drama, so this seems perfect for me. I’ve got it on my list!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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