If I could list five authors who I believe influenced me, they would have to be Ken Follett, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Judy Blume, and Jeffrey Archer–the last one being my absolute favorite. Okay, maybe I’ll list Barbara Cartland, too, because when the rest of my peers pored over the sex-driven pages of Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught, my sister and I were being swept off our feet by Cartland’s 18th-century courtly knights and virginal, corsetted heroines. My mom has literally a hundred Cartland books in our house in Bicol from her school days and I’ve burned through most of them, dust and dog-eared and all.
Back to Archer: I’ve never met a person in my generation (except for my siblings) who’s read Jeffrey Archer. His works–his best works, not that he’s anything short of brilliant now–date as far back as the ’70s. I was in college when my mom introduced us. Back then I was reading only first editions of Not A Penny More, Not a Penny Less; Kane and Abel; The Prodigal Daughter, trying not to get too distracted by the typos and the old English grammar full of “a honest man” and “an hospital.”
Soon after our first encounter, I abandoned Jeffrey Archer because I thought I’d finished every one of his books on our book shelf (of course it’s only today that I discover we have several more in Bicol). It wasn’t until last year when I stole my mom’s copy of Only Time Will Tell, the first in a five-part series called “The Clifton Chronicles,” that I started reading him again. If you’re not familiar with Archer’s style, his stories usually trace the life of a young hero–financially disadvantaged but very bright–and concludes with a revelation that’s open-ended and often right under the reader’s nose. His books, in fact, span decades, usually his protagonist’s lifetime. Normally, he juxtaposes his main man with another character (either an antagonist [Paths of Glory], a deuteragonist [Kane and Abel], or a secondary character [A Prisoner of Birth]) who’s much more fortuitous by birth but nonetheless shrewd. In the journey, his lead (usually and sometimes annoyingly male) is always beaten to the ground but of course always manages to roll with the punches and come out on top. Oh and there’s always a prodigal child and the lead is mostly motivated by a woman (a lover or a mother).
To embellish his stories, Archer uses real historical figures like JP Morgan, George Mallory, and George Finch, making his novels slightly fan-fictiony (but in a cool Forrest Gump way and not in a crap 50 Shades way). After his stint in jail in 2001, Archer noticeably began including vivid accounts of prison life in his novels (The Sins of the Father, A Prisoner of Birth).
Only Time Will Tell makes use this accustomed style. It details the life of Harry Clifton, a clever but impoverished boy whose natural talent and wit land him in all the best schools. Little did he know, there’s someone hell-bent on ruining his and his mother’s lives and that person is none other than his best friend’s rich but manipulative and arrogant father, Hugo Barrington. When Harry falls in love with his daughter, Emma, things go from bad to worse and worse becomes worst when it’s revealed at their wedding that the lovebirds (as well as Harry’s best friend, Giles) might be siblings! Only Time Will Tell ends with Harry escaping England in an attempt to protect Emma then assuming another man’s identity. As he steps foot in America, however, this time as Tom Bradshaw, he is arrested on a murder charge.
The story Jeffrey Archer is cruelly withholding from me until March next year.
Cliffhanger, yes. And after months of painful anticipation, I finally read the second installment, The Sins of the Father, over the weekend. Suffice to say, I will have to wait another year to sate my curiosity. I can’t exactly say anything about the second book without spoiling the first one so I’m going to do a Jeffrey Archer now and leave everyone restless. Honestly, I feel like the suspense is slowly, mercilessly killing me. The Sins of the Father did answer all but one question–the most pertinent one. Really if I die of impatience now, I will come back and haunt Jeffrey Archer for the rest of the “Clifton Chronicles” manuscripts.
While we’re waiting/dying, I’d like to recommend the following Jeffrey Archer novels:
Kane and Abel, The Prodigal Daughter, A Prisoner of Birth, Fourth Estate, Sons of Fortune (I hate the ending though), Paths of Glory (the ultimate fan fiction!)
The first three are my favorites…