Only Time will Tell: Clifton Chronicles Vol 1

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am

Only Time will Tell: Clifton Chronicles Vol 1
by Jeffrey Archer (read by Roger Allam, Emilia Fox)
Macmillan Digital Audio (audiobook)

Jeffrey Archer was born for audiobooks. Despite his oft-proclaimed powers of storytelling (usually self-proclaimed), his words can seem lumpen and dull when read on the page. Archer isn't one for prose-styling, structural ingenuity or sparkling dialogue. In audio format, however, these limitations are less noticeable for the simple reason that he has the splendid Roger Allam and, here, Emilia Fox to breathe life into his sentences. Fox is especially game. She narrates the opening section, Massie's story, in a broad West Country accent, a million miles from her usual cut-glass tones. This lends an odd charm to otherwise clanking lines.

Like Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, this is Archer taking on the 20th century, via a winding family saga that feels oddly familiar: disputed parentage; step-father as murderer; young love verging on incest; identity swaps; and an elephant called Rosie. Luckily, Allam reads these plot lines with a lugubrious gravitas the original doesn't exactly warrant. This is only the first part of a trilogy. Allam better get gargling.

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