Author and former politician Jeffrey Archer writes in The Guardian about his favourite ‘roman-fleuve’ or multi-volume novels:
‘Roman-fleuve sounds a very French sort of thing. Britannica defines it as “a series of novels, each one complete in itself, that deals with an era of national life, or successive generations of a family”. There are of course French examples, but the novels I’ve chosen are all English, with the kind of solid storytelling and unforgettable characters that inspire me.
And I can’t talk about romans-fleuves, without mentioning my own five-book series, The Clifton Chronicles. The first book, Only Time Will Tell, opens in 1920 and takes Harry Clifton, a docker’s son from the backstreets of Bristol, through to Oxford University, after he wins a scholarship because of his magnificent singing voice. He meets Emma at the age of nine, and she decides they will be married. And although, years later, they reach the church, the marriage never takes place. Book two, The Sins of the Father (published this week), picks up the Clifton and Barrington family saga and takes Harry and Giles through to the end of the second world war, when they have to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.
The Smiley trilogy by John le Carré
In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People, Le Carré achieves a perfect blend between the novel of manners and the sophisticated spy story. Future generations will be able to learn all they need to know about the attitudes and obsessions of a certain part of British society in the 1960s and 1970s from these novels. At the centre stands the unforgettable character of George Smiley – decent, intelligent, thoughtful, relentless, self-questioning – who uncovers a mole in the secret service, attempts to restore the service’s prestige and takes on the great Soviet spymaster Karla. When it comes to spies, Le Carré has no equal’.
Read his full list in The Guardian online here