Warning – May contain spoilers
Having literally just turned the last page, I am writing this review while the warm glow of it still lives inside my head. To be honest I think it will reside for some time. This was a Man by Jeffrey Archer is the seventh and final volume of The Clifton Chronicles and having not read the other six, I must remind myself that others have and not spoil it for them.
The novel begins with a trigger being squeezed and it is clear that the reader has been left with a cliffhanger at the end of a previous novel. With no time to digest who the players are and what is happening. Giles Barrington suspects that his third wife, Karin, is either a spy or part of a conspiracy and may have used him to get out of Germany.
The book chronicles the lives of the Clifton and the Barrington families. The Barrington’s own a shipping line founded by Joshua Barrington, who “made a profit of thirty-three pounds, four shilling and tuppence in his first year, but promised his board he would make more in the future”. The family meet each New Year’s Eve to toast Joshua and the life he has given them and to make promises for the year ahead. They are also considering selling off their shipping line to Cunard Shipping Line for a cool forty-eight million pounds.
Harry Clifton is a novelist and is married to Giles’s sister Emma. Harry has accepted a Knighthood from the Queen and is putting the finishing touches on the last novel in a series. He is now free to embark on a challenge given to him by his mother, to write an epic novel. Emma Barrington is completing 10 years as the head of the Bristol Royal Infirmary when she receives a call from Margaret Thatcher offering her a new job. This introduces us to the inner workings of British Parliament, the House of Lords, and her relationship with her brother, who supports the other side.
Sebastian Barrington, Emma and Harry’s son, becomes the head of Farthings Kaufman Bank after the surprise resignation of the chairman. But not before a bidding war between Thomas Cook and Sorkin International ensues, battling for Mellor Travel Ltd.
Mr Sorkin, the head of Sorkin International is used to getting his own way, one way or the other. A shady character, Sorkin resides on a luxury boat and uses it to sail between international waters to avoid taxation. He enters the board meeting confident that the deal he has made with two board members, Knowles and Sloane, aboard his boat will ensure his company will win the takeover.
Sorkin knows that Mellor, who owns the majority of shares, has committed suicide in prison, and that Sloan who was never sure of Sorkin, has not been seen in weeks. Knowles believes his payday has finally come but can Sebastian, with the help of Lady Virginia, have one final card to play?
Sebastian’s daughter, Jessica, is a budding artist at the Slade School of Fine Art. Everyone, including the school board, agrees Jessica is bound for great things, so when she is suddenly expelled, her secret life revealed not only to her family but to the papers. With her future placed in jeopardy can her Aunt Grace come to the rescue?
And then there is Lady Virginia Clifton, who is being perused to repay child support payments for a child she did not give birth to, which could see her either in jail or take up an offer to live in Argentina. Just as her friendship with Mellor helps to pay off her debts she is hit with another debt to pay. Could the demise of the Duchess of Hertford, who never liked Virginia, provide her with an opportunity to clear her debts and set her up for a comfortable retirement?
With a final twist, the Clifton family are devastated by a tragedy that will impact them all and leaves the reader no longer questioning who was ‘this man’. The final chapter brought me to tears and left me with a warm glow and no question that I need to find the first 6 books and start the story from the beginning.