Only Time Will Tell (Book 1)


Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920 with the words, “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” Harry never knew his father, a dock worker in Bristol, but he learns about that life from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s done with school. It’s a sad prospect, so when Harry’s beautiful singing voice wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school and a ticket off the docks, this reader’s heart lifted, knowing his life will never be the same.

Harry meets his lifelong best friend at St. Bede’s: Giles Barrington, eldest son of one of the richest families in Bristol. He’s Harry’s savior in the harsh school world, but perhaps the best thing that comes from their friendship is Harry’s introduction to Giles’ sister, Emma, destined to become the love of Harry’s life.

As he enters adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth he hears from his mother only leads him to question whether he really is the son of Arthur Clifton, a working man who spent his whole life on the docks, or the first-born son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

This first novel in Archer’s series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany—a decision made even more fraught by the coming to light of a deep secret that threatens everything Harry has ever believed to be true, even his love for Emma Barrington.

It’s a wonderfully ambitious idea, to bring to life 100 years of history over the course of one family’s story, their triumphs, tragedies, joys and heartbreaks. This first volume—and its cliffhanger!—bodes well for the rest of the series.

  1. seganyi issah says:

    i cant wait for vol 4. of Clifton Chronicles

  2. partik kumar says:

    old jack is really a character that made us to read that particular excerpt several times.
    the turning point i.e. when harry comes to know about emma as his sister is awesm.
    when i started reading this series i was of 16 year old and can see my self in harry but just in four year harry become a father of 21 year old boy and i am still in 20th year of my life, so its very hard to digest the change with time or to compare the characters,,, story is going very fast in view of characters… but at all the 1st part i.e. ONLY TIME WILL TELL is best in this series. the friendship of harry and giles and the love of harry and emma is very well pen down… in all ONLY TIME WILL TELL is 5 starer novel. good job Jeffrey Archer sir… u created my interest in literature… superb work!!!!!

  3. Lynn Bryant says:

    Hi, I am a new reader to your books. I just finished Only Time Will Tell and really enjoyed it. I am delighted to see this discussion space as there were two things in the book that I had difficulty with. They are both farther along in the book. My question is do you discuss in some particular reading order or is it open to discuss any area of the book?

  4. Anmette says:

    This is a captivating book which left me angry at the cliff hanging end. I was not ready for it to finish! I have found myself coming back and re-reading each book (or parts of them) because it seems as though there are clues or hidden meanings which are referred to in later books.

  5. Trish Hull says:

    I love his cliff hanger endings. I wish the sequels would publish faster! J. Archer knows how to write a book to keep his audience captivated.
    I hope their are many more books in the Chronicles. I thought I read there will be only two more?

  6. Jennifer Tan says:

    I’m waiting patiently for Mighter Than the Sword to be released to immerse myself into the Clifton/Barrington world. One day, I’ll have to read all four simultaneously again. I wish there’ll be a Jack for everyone and for us to listen and act on his advice.

    Will there be a 5th chronicle in the pipes?

    (aside to Jeffrey….will you consider continuing As the Crow Flies as well?) I’ve lived a thousand lifes through your books and loved every nanosecond of it. Thank you, Jeffrey.

  7. kruthika khandelwal says:

    Its hard to wait For “Mightier than the swords”. But I guess I don’t have any other option…

  8. Mike Cleverdon says:

    An American but being from a family of the West Country and having worked in private schools all my career, I quickly identified with Harry. I remember visiting Bristol in the 1950s which helped me picture Harry’s world of the docks and streets. My grandparents (Conservatives) talked about the aristocratic families with which they did business with admiration and my uncle (Laborite) talked about the same people with distain. I have loved each installment of the Chronicles and look forward to the Sword, knowing that I will spend the next day reading only it and not much else.

    It would be difficult to match the images you have created however, is anyone talking to you about a film version of the series?

  9. suzane cole says:


  10. Pam Piatt says:

    I am a huge fan, here in the US. I’ve been hooked on J.A. since reading Kane and Abel, and The Prodigal Daughter so many years ago!
    I love this series and eagerly await each installment! He brings the characters to life. I feel like Harry could be my best friend. I love all the twists and turns and how the good guys ultimately prevail, even if it takes longer than I want it to.

  11. CHBatts says:

    I too can’t wait for Feb 24. If Book 6 isn’t the last of the series I hope Mr. Archer is writing 7 quickly. I usually can’t put them down and have them finished in a couple of weeks. A year is a long time to wait for the next installment. The characters are so rich and vivid and you get caught up in what the next phase of their lives will bring.

  12. Nirosha Kulasekara says:

    I have read and collected all J.A. books. My father gave me the Prodigal Daughter to read when I was 12 and told me get get the best out of the book but not to follow the foreign culture. It was the first of my adventure into reading and made me a book worm. I love all the books and each has its greatness in different ways.
    I wish my kids would read J.A. but they complain that its too old fashioned. May be we’ll be fortunate to read a modern story too.
    Impatiently awaiting the next book and hope to get it soon in the Indian subcontinent as well.

  13. Mason says:

    I too, am an Archer fan and have been since the Prodigel Daughter!
    His ability to twist a plot is masterful. ‘Only time’ is a book within its self but leaves you wanting! It sets the stage beautifully for the next!

  14. Barbara Patrick says:

    I have been a fan of Mr. Archer, should I say Lord Archer, since the miniseries Kane and Abel. I was hooked immediately. I have read every book the. He has written. As I approach the conclusion of one novel I am perplexed by the cliffhanger, meaning at least a years wait for the next! The good news I that there will be a new exciting read. Archer’s stories grab you from the first and then take you on a wonderful ride. He is the consummate story teller. Write fast, Mr Archer your fans are anxiously awaiting your next book.

  15. Helen Wilson says:

    I have so enjoyed following the Clifton chronicles and the things GOOD and bad the family goes through together and how they come through it together I am so looking forward to the next book

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