Casting Off, Elizabeth Jane Howard


August 2023

I was delighted to have the treat of Casting Off, the final Cazalet Chronicles book, to read on holiday by the pool, yet devastated for the series to end. These books found a new audience during the covid pandemic, and the parallels with coming out of a period of great trauma are fascinating. I won’t spoil your read by divulging that it isn’t all plain sailing once the Cazalet clan steer clear of the war, and the happiness and freedoms of peacetime aren’t as straightforward or easily won as expected.

I eked these books out for two years, reading one at Christmas and one in the summer since Christmas 2021. Alas, I am bereft! Even worse, before picking this one up, I had thought there were five books.*

I have heard myself defending the type of book the Cazalet Chronicles are, trying to explain how a wartime saga about a sprawling upper middle class family is relevant and meaningful. Sometimes I wondered if I was trying to make excuses for myself, or make a case for my own continued relevance. All I know is that I opened book one and thought, Oh, this story about two little girls talking about ponies and governesses and dance classes isn’t for me. And I was 100% wrong.

*Oh shit! I’m so happy/lucky! Happy-go-lucky. I thought the only thing I could do to cheer myself up over finishing the books was to buy myself my own set - I borrowed my mother’s - and according to the publisher I WAS WRONG and I DO HAVE ANOTHER BOOK LEFT.