Our Passing Bells Read Along continues with a discussion of the next book in Phillip Rock's trilogy, Circles of Time. It's been wonderful to hear from so many of you as you were reading Circles of Time. I read mine on the way to and from last weekend's mid-winter American Library Association conference and it made for such fun plane reading. And I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it, because, when I finished The Passing Bells, I felt so satisfied, that I wasn't sure what could, or should follow it. I was very glad to have been proven wrong however, and think that I liked this second book even better.
Circles of Time
A generation has been lost on the Western Front. The dead have been buried, a harsh peace forged, and the howl of shells replaced by the wail of saxophones as the Jazz Age begins. But ghosts linger—that long-ago golden summer of 1914 tugging at the memory of Martin Rilke and his British cousins, the Grevilles.
From the countess to the chauffeur, the inhabitants of Abingdon Pryory seek to forget the past and adjust their lives to a new era in which old values, social codes, and sexual mores have been irretrievably swept away. Martin Rilke throws himself into reporting, discovering unsettling political currents, as Fenton Wood-Lacy faces exile in faraway army outposts. Back at Abingdon, Charles Greville shows signs of recovery from shell shock and Alexandra is caught up in an unlikely romance. Circles of Time captures the age as these strongly drawn characters experience it, unfolding against England's most gracious manor house, the steamy nightclubs of London's Soho, and the despair of Germany caught in the nightmare of anarchy and inflation. Lives are renewed, new loves found, and a future of peace and happiness is glimpsed—for the moment.
Questions for discussion - post your answers in the comments section - if you're a blogger and you've posted a review, include that link with your answers.
1.As with the first book, we see the world first through American Martin Rilke's eyes, as he struggles to get over Ivy and find his footing and purpose. Why do you think he chose to stay in Europe after her death and the war?2. What did you think of Charles' recovery, and his family's involvement in it?
3. Thomas Hardy's poem "The Souls of the Slain" is reprinted in the PS section in the back of the book. Why do you think this poem in particular stuck with Charles throughout his shell shock?
4. Lord Stanmore (much like Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey) has trouble with the changes that the war and time have brought to the world but at times (such as when he brings Charles home), he does admit to being wrong and is capable of change. In what other ways do his viewpoints and attitudes evolve througout the novel?
5. I found myself increasingly frustrated with Fenton's obstinate refusal to quit the military, when they repeatedly gave him the worst assignments. What do you think drove him to keep allegiance to an institution that valued him so little?
6. I loved learning more about Jamie Ross in this book, and his success in America. What did you think of his return to England, his decision to stay and his relationship with Alexandra?
7. Throughout the novel we see the characters seeking to forget the pain of WWI in drink and frivolity. What are they each working to forget and what do they choose to remember?
8. Given the growing climate of hate in Germany, do you think that Lord and Lady Stanmore and all of the family will begin to distance themselves from their German relations?
I can't wait to hear all of your thoughts, and please add any thoughts or observations I may not have covered here.
Join us for our discussion of the final book in the trilogy, A Future Arrived (which goes on sale this week) on Monday, March 4th. The first 5 people to comment on this post will win a free copy of that book to read for the discussion!