Description (from cover):
‘The guns of August are rumbling throughout Europe in the summer of 1914, but war has not yet touched Abingdon Pryory. Here, at the grand home of the Greville family, the parties, dances, and romances play on. Alexandra Greville embarks on her debutante season while brother Charles remains hopelessly in love with the beautiful, untitled Lydia Foxe, knowing that his father, the Earl of Stanmore, will never approve of the match. Downstairs the new servant, Ivy, struggles to adjust to the routines of the well-oiled household staff, as the arrival of American cousin Martin Rilke, a Chicago newspaperman, causes a stir.
But, ultimately, the Great War will not be denied, as what begins for the high-bred Grevilles as a glorious adventure soon takes it toll–shattering the household’s tranquility, crumbing class barriers, and bringing its myriad horrors home.’
I picked up this book because of its resemblance to Downton Abbey. I love that television show and thought that I would love to read a book set in the same time period with people who share a common experience, World War I. The similarities between Downton Abbey and this book are very uncanny and makes me wonder if Julian Fellowes might have used this book as a starting point for his highly successful series. Maybe not, but the similarities are there and I found myself comparing this book to the show while reading it. The Grevilles are a lot like the Crawleys and know wealth and status and live their lives in oblivion to the world around them.
This book features heavily on the first World War. At the beginning you see the wealth and the lives of the rich Greville family and watch as their world is turned upside down by the cruelty of war. Before the war, the reader gets to enjoy the luxurious lives of the social and the wealthy. However, when war begins everything changes for the characters and their lives are turned upside down. The characters must be a part of something that their class and status have kept them from before now and they must adjust or be lost in the confusion of everything around them. Earl’s daughters become nurses and do their part in the war effort and the sons go off to fight in a war everyone thought wouldn’t last very long. The realities and the brutality of war are very apparent and no one remains unchanged.
I really enjoyed the first quarter or so of this book because it reminded me so much of Downton. However, once the war begins the whole story shifts and focuses more of the strategy of war. The author describes the battles of war in great detail and follows the characters through ups and downs. I really connected with the characters because they were well-rounded and enjoyable to read about. This is the first book in a trilogy and I am excited to see where the characters go as their lives seemed so predictable at the beginning, but nothing turns out the way it was meant to.
The only thing I really didn’t care for about this book is that it is focused mainly on the war. It doesn’t really follow the characters in detail like the beginning and I would have liked to have seen more on how the characters dealt with the changes. There are gaps in the story and time to make the story shorter and it works, but I wish that several details would have been allowed to be shown in the book. Marriages and childbirth are skimmed over and the reader doesn’t get to read about them and I would have enjoyed more of those types of details, personally. The book was good in a sense and could easily be related to Downton Abbey, but whereas Downton features more of the characters and their struggles throughout this difficult time, this book does not. It focuses more of the actual war itself. I was honestly a little disappointed in that, but it still was a good read and I will most definitely be picking up the next installments when I get a chance to see where the characters go from here.
Overall Rating: 3.5
Title: The Passing Bells
Author: Phillip Rock
Series: Greville Family Saga #1
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: Reprinted, December 4, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Get It: Amazon; Barnes & Noble
Disclaimer: This book was purchased by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.