Casting Off (Volume 4 of the Cazalet Chronicles), by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Following Confusion, Marking Time and The Light Years, this is the last in the series, and follows events from the end of the war until early 1947.

Another fantastic read. In this book, you get the feeling that it's Clary who Howard is most fond of: she finally finds the time and space to write her first book, and finds love at last.

Although the complete series covers less than ten years, there is a huge change in society: in this book people are coming to terms with the fact that they'll have to do without servants, while in the first book such an idea wasn't even considered.

Having read this one so soon after Casting Off, I can't remember exactly what happened in each book, but some things that stuck in my mind were the passages written from the point of view of the senile aunt - the way her thoughts rambled were very convincing, and the section where an apparently new character was introduced. Here, there was quite a long description of the woman, and background story, and during this I was thinking "have I missed something? Who is this person?" And then, as we get to her wedding in a registry office, one detail about her husband-to-be is revealed, and everything falls into place: a neat change of perspective. And there was a good description of Archie (I think) putting someone on a train, and feeling "that mixture of freedom & desolation that seeing someone off on a journey seemed always to induce"

There's a real poignancy at the end of this book as Clary describes how, after finishing her novel, she feels sadness because she has to say goodbye to the characters. I can't help but think that Howard felt this way about the Cazalets.

Re-read in 2018. This time, I noted:

There's a lovely section where Christopher turns up at Angela's going away party; he has been living in a caravan on a farm after suffering a mental breakdown and ECT from his time in the army. He sees Polly for the first time in ages and is taken in with how beautiful she is and asks her to come to stay in his caravan. You are just willing her to say yes, and to not make fun of his lifestyle etc., and it's so nice when she is appreciative of him and loves his caravan. I sighed with pleasure when reading it

Christopher realised he loves Polly and clumsily proposes to her as he's seeing her off on the train - really moving. Polly says she loves someone else (I think Archie), who’s rejected her and she can't imagine wanting anyone else.

The bit about Zoe and Rupert telling each other about the way they each had affairs when Rupert was in France had me in tears

Lovely bit at the end when Clary is sad because she's finished writing her book and she's going to miss the characters in it.

Oh what a lovely book. Now that a fifth book has appeared, I'm a bit worried that when I read that I'll find out that some of the characters I really liked may have had bad things happen to them.

Completed : 11-Mar-2004 (audiobook)

Completed : 24-May-2018 (audiobook)

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