Sons of Fortune
Jeffrey Archer
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Sons of Fortune
Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's Press
544 pages
November 2003
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Jeffrey Archer has done it again. A master at weaving intricate plots with fast-paced action and suspenseful twists, he lives up to his reputation as an outstanding and skilled storyteller. In the tradition of Kane and Abel and its sequel, The Prodigal Daughter, Archer paints a saga of families against the backdrop of a nation as it evolves through the 1940s to the ‘60s.

Sons of Fortune mixes academic rivalries and achievements with political triumph and economic successes to make a cocktail bestseller. He takes us from the hearts of the characters into the Senate, Wall Street and the courtroom. It is based on the cliché of twins separated at birth, a technique so old that the author is forced to admit tongue-in-cheek in the first chapter that life is full of "coincidences that fate decides but novelists are not allowed to consider." Cliched, stale formula, or whatever you might call it, it works for Archer. It is a story of two strong, charismatic men with strong morals, honor and integrity. The fact that they are twins is but a small plot device. Sometimes the reader gets the impression that Archer chooses to have two main protagonists because he wants his character to go into banking, law and politics, and one man just can’t do it all. A twin brother however…

The story is set in Hartford, Connecticut. A nanny separates the twins, the sons of an insurance salesman, to give to a millionaire couple blessed with wealth and privilege but cursed with a string of miscarriages. The twins’ parents are told that one of their sons died; their schoolteacher mother mourns the loss of her son for many years.

The twins, Nat Cartwright and Fletcher Davenport, go to different schools and colleges and choose different careers. Nat goes to Vietnam, earns a Purple Heart and distinguishes himself in finance, while Fletcher is an outstanding criminal lawyer. Neither, however, strays very far from Hartford, and they know of each other by reputation. Cartwright marries a Korean computer whiz -- Su Ling -- whom he meets in college. Fletcher marries his best friend sister Annie, whom he falls in love with at first sight when they are in their teens.

Family members comment on similarities between the two, but no one ever connects the dots because, after all, they are not identical twins. The truth is revealed to them by a doctor when a potentially fatal car accident reveals that they share the same rare blood type. In yet another plot twist, the twins choose to keep the blood link a secret.

Full of dramatic moments, such as both brothers deciding on a run for governor that after three recounts remains a draw, the book is compelling. At the tale's end, When both men stand to the left and right of the mayor to represent their parties, the mayor turns to his right to congratulate the new governor.

Archer is a gifted writer. His characters are real people, feisty, strong and challenged by tragedy, adversity, betrayal, and hardships. But they also exist in a world where greed, materialism and corporate cunning can lead to a life of comfort and privilege. It is never the heroes who walk down that road; it is the villains, like Ralph Elliott, who choose that path and as a result face dishonor, shame, disaster and death.

Jeffrey Archer earned a degree from Oxford University, became the youngest member of the House of Commons, was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party and then was a member of the House of Lords. His political successes were matched by literary accolades. All his novels and short story collections have been international bestsellers. He lives in England with his wife and two children.

© 2003 by Sonia Chopra for Curled Up With a Good Book

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