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Summary

The final book in the landmark Cazalet Chronicles, recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

It is the 1950s and as the Cazalets' beloved matriarch, the Duchy, passes away, she takes with her the last remnants of a world - of great houses and servants, of class and tradition - in which the Cazalets have thrived. Louise, now divorced, becomes entangled in a painful affair; while Polly and Clary must balance marriage and motherhood with their own ideas and ambitions.

Hugh and Edward, now in their sixties, are feeling ill-equipped for this modern world; while Villy, long abandoned by her husband, must at last learn to live independently. But it is Rachel, who has always lived for others, who will face her greatest challenges yet...

Events will converge at Christmas at Home Place; on which a new generation of Cazalets will descend. Only one thing is certain, nothing will ever be the same again...

©2013 Elizabeth Jane Howard (P)2013 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Critic reviews

"Elizabeth Jane Howard is one of those novelists who shows, through her work, what the novel is for... She helps us to do the necessary thing - open our eyes and our hearts" (Hilary Mantel)
“Reassuring without becoming dim-witted or simplistic, largely because Howard is such an astute observer of human behaviour. She conveys volumes with tiny, brilliant touches ... I found myself at one in the morning, weeping over a death-bed scene, unable to put the book down. This is Howard’s true magic: her humanity transcends the individual. All Change really is the gold standard of comfort reads” (Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times - plus featured in their 'Must Reads' section)
“Beautifully written and utterly engrossing” (Fanny Blake, Woman & Home)
“Reading All Change is like turning the pages of a marvellous vintage photograph album ... a novel to gobble up like a soufflé and then marvel over at leisure” ( We Love This Book)
“It was almost enough of a joy to have had four volumes of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s great saga about the Cazalet family ... so to have a fifth volume is a huge treat and you do rather hope she will go on forever... It is in fact all wonderful. Please let there be a sixth book. Verdict 5/5” (Jennifer Selway, Daily Express)
"The material of the chronicles seems like Howard's natural and inevitable subject... what makes the chronicles worth having is first and foremost they are a true record of the real thing... Howard's virtues as a writer are inside knowledge, exactitude, plainness, unsentimentality... In old age she came into her own." (Tessa Hadley, London Review of Books)
"[A] blissful wodge of a book... Deeply enjoyable, beautifully written" (Kate Saunders, Times)
"Shows her at her best, her navigation of the web of human relations seemingly effortless" ( Sunday Telegraph)
"This is a good old-fashioned family saga . . . cumulatively reassuring without becoming dim-witted or simplistic, largely because Howard is such an astute observer of human behaviour. She conveys volumes with tiny, brilliant touches. All Change really is the gold standard of comfort reads" ( Sunday Times)

What listeners say about All Change

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Unfortunately disappointing

Having listened to all of the previous books following the Cazalet family, and thoroughly enjoyed them, I was looking forward to this final instalment to see how everything was tied up. I can only say I wish I had never listened to it!

There seemed to be some personality changes in the characters. I felt as though Archie and Clary acted out of character and Edward too seems changed becoming meek and obsequious where Diana was concerned (who herself has lost all sympathy). The Neville storyline was completely ludicrous. Although he was always a bit of a strange child he was sympathetic and quite funny. I just can't accept this is the adult he grew into. Simon too is almost a different character, he seems to have become Christopher 2.0.

Louise and Teddy are even more unsympathetic than they were previously, there is barely a mention of her son, Sebastian, who must be a teenager by now. It might have been interesting to explore their strained relationship, although I suppose we are to assume they do not have a relationship at all it was a strange and disappointing omission.

Speaking of forgotten characters there is barely a mention of Jessica and her family. Christopher's story had run it's course but what of Angela in America and Nora with poor Richard? Also, what about Wills? He strangely gets barely a passing mention.

In contrast I felt there was too much focus on the many new children and I kept forgetting which child belonged to who. I didn't think they warranted such focus as they were just re-hashes of their parents and frankly I wasn't interested in their stories.

The paragraphs are short which gives a choppy feel. There are some errors in continuity (especially where Simon is concerned, it was Wills who had a twin that died not Simon). I suppose we can forgive the author given her age when writing the novel.

Overall, I almost feel as though this volume was an unnecessary addition. The author clearly wanted to re-visit the Cazalets again before she died but seems to struggle with what to do with them. "Casting Off" was the perfect end to the series for me, satisfyingly rounding off the storylines and leaving me feeling uplifted. Although it was lovely to re-visit the family and see how they are getting on, "All Change" left me feeling unsatisfied and slightly depressed.

6 people found this helpful

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A Sort of an Ending

First, I was, as ever seems to be the case with me and 'trends', a very late arrival to the EJH fan club. But once I found them, I loved and devoured all the other books. This one was written very much later and is set a little later than the others which run pretty much consecutively from just before WW2 to just after its end. Now, in this final volume, we jump forwards by quite a few years.

So I was anxious about whether the book would grip me as the others did, especially the first two in the saga. Some reviews were unfavorable but I went ahead because I really did want to know what happened next.

And it was fine. A different narrator but beautifully read. It is not quite as sharp as the earlier books but it nonetheless diligently deals with most of the characters (not the one who went off to be a monk; he gets left out really) in order and follows the formula for the other books of visiting each family or person in turn.

We get helpful asides to make sure we know what year we are in - the Suez Crisis, telly being around (for the servants, of course) and so on. And so I felt it worked rather well. Things do move on for everyone, and in some cases it's sad, in others it's just 'normal' life.

I won't spoil it, but I was 75% satisfied with the end. I wish it had been a bit different, but the main reason I was not wholly happy was that still, it left unfinished business, but I suppose it had to stop somewhere. There is a sense of some story lines being hastily tied up and others being perhaps too complicated to deal with fully - much like real life. But this is as far from 'real' as you can get. That's fine with me.

I will really miss my many weeks spent with these characters. Largely because of the era it evoked, rather than fondness for them all. I do love the author's complete obsession with food!

3 people found this helpful

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Intelligent, stylish storyline.

Would you listen to All Change again? Why?

Most definitely!

What other book might you compare All Change to, and why?

All the previous books in the Cazelet series, a fabulous continuation.

What does Penelope Wilton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

She captures the very essence of all the characters in the the family, so evocative of their times. Her diction is perfect, never overblown and her accents are subtle.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Both! The storylines epitomise the world that the family lived in. I laughed at the the absurdity of some of their actions and cried at their tragedies. I became absorbed 'into' the family.

Any additional comments?

Please can we have more of the same high standard of writing and narration.

3 people found this helpful

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A Slow Start, but Worth Persevering

All of the Cazalet Chronicles are incredibly good. The only reason I have not included here the same review as I did for the others is that this deserves separate consideration. I found the early stages of the book not quite as compelling as the previous four volumes. For me, the characters did too much looking back to early events, so it was a bit “tell, not show” (the opposite of what writing should generally do). However, it does mean that the book can stand alone, which is perhaps the point, and it quickly shook off being too reflective to move the story forward to a satisfying conclusion. It is still worthy to stand alongside the earlier four books, and has a pleasing “closure” for those of us who have enjoyed the Chronicles so much. I am perhaps being harsh to give the excellent narrator, Penelope Wilton, an actress whom I have always much admired, only four stars, but I think that her predecessor in these books (Jill Balcon) was so extraordinarily suited that it was almost impossible to meet her consistent five stars. That said, if not jill Balcon (who I believe was dead by the time this was written), Penelope Wilton was the perfect choice. As I said in my earlier reviews, I cannot recommend these books highly enough. I will not be reading much more of Elizabeth Jane Howard.

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Epic

It's probably twice as long as it should be, but it is an epic tale about largely vacuous people who don't deserve the easy lives that fate dealt them. However, it's like a warm blanket on a frosty morning... V agreeable

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  • AJ
  • 22-05-22

Wonderful

Didn’t want this final instalment to end as have been immersed in all 5 books for weeks now.

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Treat yourself to a superb series

A wonderful series, I put off listening to this last volume for a while as I didn’t want it to end. Call me batty but I feel like I have a large family tucked away somewhere. The characters are so real, and their stories believable that you get completely immersed in their world. I can’t praise it enough. I will explore more books by EJH and highly recommend you do too.

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Bit depressing really

Not as enjoyable as the first four books and in some ways I wish I hadn’t listened to this one as Casting Off ended perfectly. The narrator not quite as good either - perhaps I was just so used to hearing Jill Balcon telling the story.

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Tremendous

This series was tremendous. I really enjoyed it. I shall now listen to more by this author.

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Wonderful !

Extraordinary! Exquisite writing ! I can't recommend this series of books highly enough. Read them all!

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  • Peter White
  • 24-04-17

Howard finished strong

Although this fifth novel in The Cazalet Chronicle was written nearly 20 years after the first four and near the end of the author's life, the mastery of tale and character is still there. At the end I cried because the characters are so real - so human, painstakingly drawn and psychologically credible - I came to love them as did the author.

3 people found this helpful

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  • jdukuray
  • 24-11-20

The beloved Cazalets

This is my second time listening to the series. I can’t wait for enough time to pass so I can enjoy it all over again.

This is the story of an English middle class family that covers the period from 1939 to the late 50s. The story and cast are brilliantly sustained and developed in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s telling, which is unfailingly insightful, full of pathos and humor. I live inside that world as I am reading.

One reads different books for different things, making it impossible (at least for me) to say of any book: this is my favorite of all. But for a five volume family saga depicting the era between the wars in England, the Cazalet Chronicles are just perfect.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Laura
  • 14-09-14

My all time favorite series

Where does All Change rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

In the top 5, along with the other 4 books in this series.

Any additional comments?

Finding that Elizabeth Jane Howard wrote this one last book in the Cazalet Chronicles, available on Audible just a few weeks before she died, was like a precious gift.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amy
  • 01-04-22

not the best for last, but still good

I didn't enjoy this narrator as much as the reader of the first four in the series. There were issues with continuity with the earlier books as well, which I found distracting. However, it was lovely, if heart wrenching to spend time with the Cazelets one more time.
I'll certainly listen to the whole series again.

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  • mary
  • 01-04-22

Absorbing, gentle story beautifully told.

5 novels that follow the events in the lives of the large Cazelet family before, during and after World War II. An interesting, delicious novel in the best British tradition.

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  • Vivian Grant
  • 25-02-21

I’ll miss the Cazalets

I loved this entire series and will miss the family, even the unlovable Edward and Diana. It was a great weed with a little bit of food for everything I love in reading - history, solid characterization, a good story arc, details about the period decor, food, and fashion, wit and intelligence, multiple perspectives. Just a really good series. I enjoyed it even more than the Forsyte saga.

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  • JoJo46
  • 30-12-18

I will miss the Cazalets

This was a great book; however, there are too many loose ends! I love a happy ending with all the knots tied. I am going to miss this family and wish that there could be one more book that would provide answers. What happened to Edward - did he stay with Diana? What about Louise - did she find love? Did Hugh live? It will be one of those “Gone With the Wind” things - you’ll always wonder.

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  • Toby
  • 22-12-13

A bit of a let down after the marvelous first ones

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Yes. The last quarter of the book is retelling all that we already know. It is too maudlin and not as interesting as the fist 2/3 of the novel. Remember, I am saying this as one who had reread all of the Cazuelet series. I am big EJH fan.

Would you recommend All Change to your friends? Why or why not?

No. It does little to add to the original series. It only makes one want MORE - at least in the beginning and we are not sated.`I can

What does Penelope Wilton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I can only listen to books as I am visually impaired. She is a good reader. I rather missed the original reader, but this woman is more than adequate.I

Could you see All Change being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

I do not answer such questions. I read books. I have no interest in movies or TV shows.

Any additional comments?

There was far too much emphasis on Rachel. She, of all the characters, is not only boring but hard to take in. What intelligent woman would sacrifice her own life and pleasures for the likes of a family of disparate brothers? Give me a break. Rachel is most unlikeable.

2 people found this helpful