A Time of Hope is the third book in C. P. Snow's 11-volume Strangers and Brothers series. In it, narrator Lewis Eliot recounts his formative years, from his father's bankruptcy and his mother's death, through his school days, training to be a barrister, and early career, to his star-crossed marriage to the neurotic Sheila Knight.
Although this was the third novel of the series to be published, it is considered the first of the series chronologically. That is technically correct because it does begin with Eliot's childhood, but most of the story parallels the timeframe of the first-published volume, George Passant (reviewed here).
Eliot does a lot of soul searching and armchair analysis of his friends and professional colleagues – the kind of stuff that can make a novel enduringly interesting, or interminably dull. No doubt the series remains popular because Snow is a great storyteller who can wring a lot of insight out of a character without turning the plot to sludge. The characters are as realistic and absorbing today as when the book was first published in 1949.
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A Time of Hope dovetails with George Passant, telling Eliot's story instead of Passant's, but involving many of the same events, including Passant's criminal trial for fraud and conspiracy. Because A Time of Hope gives a condensed version of the trial, including its outcome, to read it first would spoil the story of George Passant.