Book three of the Cazalet Chronicles, Confusion takes us through the second half of World War II. Most of the children are now young adults and facing the challenges of learning to stand on their own two feet as well as dealing with the dangers of wartime London.

Headstrong, independent Louise surprises everyone by abandoning her dreams of the stage and making a society marriage. Unhappiness and loneliness, which have also plagued her mother’s marriage, quickly settle in – Michael seems more interested in his ship and his mother, to whom he is extraordinarily close, than in his young bride. And both Michael and his mother are desperate for her to become pregnant, a wish not shared by Louise.

Polly and Clary, now in their late teens, finally fulfil their ambition of living together in London. But the reality of the city is not quite as they hoped. Polly is having to come to terms with the death of her mother, as well as look after her grieving father. And Clary – clever, sharp Clary, acutely aware she is neither beautiful like Polly nor striking like Louise – is the only Cazalet who seems to believe that her father might not be dead.

I enjoyed this book more than the second in the saga, probably because the children from the first novel are now adults and I could relate a little more to their problems (although, being upper middle class in the 1940s, all they really seem to do is potter about and not have to worry about getting proper jobs). Louise’s story especially I found heartbreaking, finding herself married to a man who will always love his mother more than her (favourite quote from mother-in-law to Louise: ‘If I felt that you were – in any way – making him unhappy, I should stab you to death. I should enjoy doing it.’).  The way his family treat her, for childbearing purposes alone, was very well portrayed. Not only does poor Louise have an awful time giving birth, but her husband pops his head in for all of ten minutes to say well done, then abandons her to spend the rest of his leave from the navy with his mother! A different time indeed…

There are also lots of affairs in this novel, mainly concerning the women, but it did make me laugh a little at how little they seem to enjoy them. I was rooting for Louise and Hugo (her husband’s cousin) and was bitterly disappointed for her when he, being a good egg, confessed to the husband who promptly threw him out of the house and devised a way to keep him away from Louise (not sure what Hugo thought would happen!). Hardly any of the women seemed to enjoy sex at all though (or ‘being made love to’ as it is referred to throughout) and viewed it as a necessary evil when embarking upon an affair. I was also glad to see that Sid became fed up with Rachel’s do-gooding and found herself a young student to have a fling with.

So far, this is my favourite in the saga. On to book four I think, and post-war Britain with a fair few surprises in store…


2 Comments on “Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Cazalet Chronicles Book

  1. Confusion is my favourite in the series too, although Casting Off (the next one) is, amazingly, quite gripping – I was up late reading it!


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