The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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After my marathon month of reading galleys for the Fabulous Fall Reads presentation I gave at the library yesterday, I needed something absorbing, old-fashioned and satisfying to sink into – and I definitely found that with this novel. The Light Years is one of those books that is complete and total cozy comfort reading – but comfort reading that is very insightful, has realistic, well-drawn characters, is observant and funny. Lots of people are just now discovering Elizabeth Jane Howard, probably because after she died last year there was a flurry of interest in her books. Hilary Mantel wrote a passionate endorsement, which certainly got me interested in reading her, and lately Rachel from Book Snob, has urged us to give EJH, and specifically the Cazalet Chronicles, a try on the Tea or Books? podcast.

The Light Years is essentially a family saga featuring the Cazalet family – Brig and the Duchy, their three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. This first novel in the five part series begins in 1937 and ends just as summer is waning in 1938. In this book we’re introduced to all the members of the family, their struggles, fears, joys and interests. The looming war influences a lot of the action and interior thoughts of a majority of the characters, but they’re also plagued by such human concerns as aging, unwanted pregnancy, school hatred, infidelity, forbidden love, illness, etc. It’s absolutely riveting and I so enjoyed losing myself in the lives of this complex family.

I started the second book in the series, Marking Time, the day after I finished this but I had to drag myself away in order to speed read My Cousin Rachel for book club on Tuesday (which is not a hardship, I admit). As soon as I’m finished, though, I’m right back into the lives of the Cazalet clan.

Have you read Elizabeth Jane Howard and the Cazalet Chronicles?

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13 thoughts on “The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

  1. I have an unread copy of this book and really must start reading it soon! It sounds great and the fact that you started the second book the next day shows how much you enjoyed it.

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  2. I’ve wondered where the interest had stemmed from, and have been meaning to research, as all I knew was she seemed to be on shortlists. Sad to hear she’s passed away.

    The book sounds excellent.

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  3. Oh yes, I have recently read the whole chronicle and more afterward. Such a sympathetic writer that I wish I had discovered her earlier. I think though, that she had a difficult life, being married to those unsympathetic men. Poor thing.

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  4. I saw the TV adaptation years ago and loved it, and the books are even better! I see that there are also reprints of some of EJH’s earlier novels. I picked up The Long View while on vacation last month and hope to get to it soon.

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  5. I’ve listened to the radio adaption but never read the series. Must do. I’m sure I read that she was the step-mother of Martin Amis and introduced him to the novels of Jane Austen. How wonderful.

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