23/02/2008

Winning Through (by Marcia Willett)

I do enjoy the novels by Marcia Willett. She writes character-driven sagas, a bit like those of Rosamunde Pilcher. Since I have all her books to date and have read them over the past ten years or so, I'm gradually re-reading. Last Summer I decided to re-read the 'Chadwick trilogy' - some of the first of Marcia Willett's books that I read - but taking them gradually. I read the last of the three this week.

I first read 'Winning Through' nearly seven years ago. I can remember it being a moving and emotive finale to the series, with one shock which I remembered clearly, although I had forgotten most of the rest. I found that some of the plot came back to me as I read, but other sections surprised or moved me afresh.

This book begins in 1986, and ends in 1998. As with the other books in the series, there are several chapters set in a particular year, charting the lives of the various characters; then we leap ahead four years to a new scenario, in which the gaps are gradually filled in as needed. It works well as a style - I'm not generally keen on too much flashback, or characters talking about events after they have happened, but in these novels it's a technique that I quickly got used to, and found I could relate to well.

Fliss, who was a little girl in the first Chadwick novel, is forty at the start of the novel. She has to make the difficult decision whether to try and continue in her marriage to Miles, who adores her, but whom she has never truly loved. She lives at The Keep, the family home, where she is surrounded by loving relatives, including her Great-Uncle Theo, who is a wonderful Christian influence on all the family. Her twins, Bess and Jamie, are almost grown-up - confident and outgoing, planning their future at university.

Fliss's brother Mole has been promoted in the Navy, where he works with submarines. He still occasionally relives the terror of his childhood when his parents and oldest brother were killed violently. Then their youngest sister, Susannah, is happily married with two small children, and expecting the third.

Their cousins, Hal and Kit are also featured. Hal is not very happily married to Maria, and has two sons - the sensitive Jolyon, and the nervous Edward. Kit is still single, pining after a married man she once loved.

Doesn't sound very gripping, perhaps? Yet somehow the people drew me into the story, and it became compulsive reading. There was one major dramatic shock which I remembered very clearly... indeed, I kept expecting it to happen as I encountered the character concerned, and noticed the hints that might have led up to it. There was another shock which I had entirely forgotten about, and one more at the end which brought the novel to a close, and which I had mostly forgotten too. In between there were daily events, minor problems, decisions to be made, and the ongoing question of whether or not it was possible to maintain a large and old-fashioned home as a refuge for the family.

At the start of the book is a family tree, which I found useful in remembering who was whom, and which would be vital for anyone who read this without the benefit of the first two in the series: Looking Forward and Holding On.

All in all, an excellent ending to the series. Highly recommended - but best of all if you read the series in order.

1 comment:

Ranjini said...

I loved the Chadwick Chronicles best of all the Marcia Willets myself. Like you, I've read them all and have started on the Willa Marsh books. I'm enjoying your reviews. Thanks for sharing!
Ranjini