I loved The Light Years (Cazalet book 1) so much that I immediately checked out book 2 from the library. Marking Time has slightly less of a light hearted feel compared to its predecessor – set in 1939-1941 we are immediately into World War II and seeing its impact on the family.
Although there are several sections which focus on the family as a whole, the focus narrows in on the three older girls: Louise, Polly and Clary. Louise is finally allowed to go to drama school and meets an older admirer. Her story is perhaps the most interesting as she spends less and less time at Home Place. At seventeen, she is also discovering men and their various motivations for befriending her. I did feel sorry for her in her complete ignorance of what was going on, both with her own relationships and with those around her. Her friendship with new character Stella was a highlight. The only odd part of her strand of this is her relationship with Edward, her father. In the first book he tries to kiss Louise, and tries again in this book, and to take things further, but I wasn’t entirely sure that it was in character for him. He is definitely a womaniser and a serial cheat, but I couldn’t understand his motivation for molesting his own adult daughter.
Polly and Clary are still having their lessons with Miss Milliment and pottering around Home Place. I found these sections less interesting, purely because there was so much messing around that wasn’t needed. There was a strange hospital for babies (carried through from the first book) which then was moved elsewhere and rarely referred to again. There was also an awkward dalliance between two of the staff which was fairly amusing only because they cemented their relationship over tea and scones on an afternoon off. Clary’s journal was probably the most revealing device as this is the only part of the novel which is written in first person and therefore was quite insightful. I liked the development of the relationship between Clary and her step-mother Zoe, who has changed vastly from the insipid and vacuous character of the first book into a much wiser woman. When Rupert goes missing, the reactions of his wife and daughter are brilliantly depicted, while everyone around them maintains a very English stiff upper lip.
I had ups and downs with this book. I still think that the vast cast of characters is what slows it down – having to visit each person just so that the reader remembers who they are is time consuming and not always worthwhile – and Howard adds in a few more (though equally she bumps a few off so…). I think that there are enough threads left hanging to entice me to reserve the next book – will Louise get married? What will happen to Rupert? Will Sid get fed up of Rachel wanting nothing more than companionship and the odd kiss? I suspect that two out of these three will be revealed in Confusion…