This lengthy, if not particularly artful, first novel by one of England's leading politicians is an often engaging tale of his own family's experiences during the latter part of the 19th century through the decade following WW I—a rambling saga that will charm some readers and drive others to distraction with its overwhelming attention to detail and verisimilitude. Hattersley makes no effort to hide the fact that his story is essentially a true one, using the family name throughout and apparently disdaining many of the skills and artifices of fiction in order to record events close to, if not exactly, the way they actually happened. As a result, many of the payoffs readers of generational fiction come to expect are not delivered. For example, the imperious Frederick Hattersley, an unbending Methodist and self-made man with whom the story begins in 1867, might be expected to receive some sort of cathartic comeuppance before disappearing from the scene. Instead, while he does have his disappointments and failures, he merely fades slowly from center stage, has a stroke, and lingers on in the background for 20 years. Similarly, his youngest son, Herbert, on whom the middle portion of the story is centered, amiably drifts through life and is almost totally dependent upon the decisions and support of his strong-willed aunt and Catholic wife (the book, and presumably the family, is replete with strong, independent female characters). The last section deals with the third generation, specifically Father Rex Hattersley (based upon the author's father) and his family-ordained entrance into—and love-inspired leaving of—the priesthood in 1929. Plodding at times but essentially well written: rewarding in its depiction of relatively ordinary lives and the time and place in which they occurred; disappointing mainly in its lack of fictional purpose and focus.
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