- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (December 4, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0062229311
- Source: Publisher
It is the summer of 1914 and Abingdon Pryory, home of the Greville family, has yet to be tainted by the war that rages through the rest of Europe. The only source of anxiety for this family is deciding what to wear to the next gala. Alexandra Greville has just begun her debutante season and looks forward to it with so much promise. Her brother, Charles, has fallen in love with Lydia Foxe, a young beautiful woman without a title. Their love will never find fruition in marriage, for Lydia’s lack of a social title deems her as unworthy, at least in the eyes of Charles’ father, the Earl of Stanmore. Ivy, the new servant, has a difficult time learning her place in the Greville household, not welcomed by the existing staff with open arms. The first hint of a stir comes with the arrival of Martin Rilke, an American cousin, employed by a Chicago newspaper.
The facade of a perfect, stress-free life quickly fades once the war comes to the Pryory. The family assumes the war will only last a matter of months, yet their ignorance is quickly shattered. Through the eyes of each of the main characters, family and household staff alike, readers get a glimpse not only of the political but also the mental and emotional impact of the war. In a matter of weeks, social classes are shattered, men fighting side by side irregardless of their place on the social ladder. Young women stop planning for the next ball and instead volunteer as nurses, soothing the weak and injured soldiers.
Rock’s portrayal of World War I is a truly remarkable one. Originally published in the 1970s, this trilogy has once again come to life, thanks to the popularity of Downton Abbey. The Passing Bells, the first book in this trilogy spans just six years, from 1914 to 1920. The vast range of characters gives readers a truly unique glimpse of different viewpoints of the war, from that of a soldier right on the battle lines to a journalist desperate to share the true face of war.
While this is quite a lengthy novel, it doesn’t take long to become invested in the characters, desperate to know their fate in the war. Each, despite their level of participation in the war, come out forever altered due to their experience. Fans of historical fiction are certain to devour this series. While this reader hasn’t embraced the cultural obsession that is Downton Abbey, I hear fans of this popular television series will find similarities in The Passing Bells as well. Highly, highly recommended.