As the Crow Flies (novel)
As the Crow Flies is a novel by Jeffrey Archer. The novel was originally published in hardback by HarperCollins in May 1991. HarperCollins and Random House both published paperback version of this book in 1992.
First edition (UK)
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||617 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||0-06-017916-3 (first edition, hardback)|
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The story tells the tale of the Trumper retail empire, through the (often overlapping) points of view of several of the main characters. The narrative characters are Charlie Trumper, Becky Salmon (later Trumper), Daphne, Colonel Hamilton, Mrs. Trentham, Daniel Trumper, and Cathy Ross. Guy Trentham is a non-narrative character who links most of these viewpoints together.
The story begins with Charlie, grandson of a barrow costermonger. His father usually spends his money on drink instead of his family. Charlie is the youngest of the family, and has three older sisters. His mother died while giving birth to him. For as long as he could remember, Charlie wanted to sell fruits and vegetables just like his grandpa (as he puts it).
Charlie's father is eventually given a white feather, and ends up enlisting in the British Army to serve in World War I. Charlie, having saved the money he earned helping his grandfather, buys the "biggest barrow" for his own enterprise, only to find that his granpa died. Charlie tries running his own business. He is eventually bailed out by the Jewish father of "Posh Porky" a baker, who loans him money to pay the rent. He is impressed with Charlie's ability to learn from his mistakes and feels he has the ability to be successful. However, when his father is killed in WWI, Charlie enlists to take his place, leaving instructions to Rebecca to sell everything and keep his share secure for when he returns. Charlie fights in WWI under Colonel Hamilton and Captain Guy Trentham. He befriends another recruit, Tommy, (who was a pickpocket and was given the choice of enlisting or serving time). Twice they charge the enemy lines. The first time, Charlie wakes up in a hospital with having lost a toe. The second time, Charlie, Tommy, Guy manage to get behind enemy lines. After some killing, they retreat to their own front. It is here that Guy Trentham shoots Tommy, because he had proof that Guy turned a coward under fire. Tommy had left a will giving everything to Charlie. The most important thing he receives is a painting, which was later revealed to have been stolen by Guy Trentham. Tommy is awarded a Military Medal, and Guy Trentham a Military Cross, which his mother promptly has custom engraved with his initials. After the troops are demobilized, Charlie returns to London. He makes enquires and is led to a shop in Chelsea. He is astonished to see a greengrocer shop bearing the words "Trumper, The Honest Trader, Established 1823."
Rebecca Salmon continues the tale, with her own version of events. Her prized possession is a book of art given to her by Daphne, a girl of nobility and common sense (though not of brains). She decides she wants to work in the art field, and becomes an excellent student. She also learns a lot about the bakery trade from her Jewish father, who was both honest, smart, and had potential. When Rebecca's father dies, she approaches Charlie asking him to go into business with her. They agree on terms, and she goes off to study art history at university.
She shares rooms with Daphne, only after her mother gives her approval. She finds it impossible to continue the business of Charlie's costermongering and her father's bakery, and sells it to the highest bidder. She puts the proceeds into investments that she was unable to access when Charlie's irresponsible sister, Kitty, tells that her Charlie had been killed in the war. A short time later, her ego gets the better of her when she finds a greengrocery shop for sale in Chelsea. She makes enquiries, and offers 100 pounds for the freehold. She only has 40 pounds at the time, and did not know where to go when the offer was accepted. She is rescued by Daphne, who has her lawyers draw up very strict terms. Rebecca hires somebody to manage the store until Charlie returns.
When he does, she tells him everything. Charlie goes about the business of costermonger, rearranging the shop and doing great business. However, when at a foursome for dinner, he finds himself paired with Daphne, against Rebecca and Guy Trentham. Guy Trentham invites Rebecca to his country place for a weekend. Mrs. Trentham marks the event with several snide comments about her. Guy tells Rebecca he loves her, and promises to marry her just before he is shipped to India. With these words, he seduces and impregnates her. However, he fails to provide either a ring or an announcement of their engagement. At urging, she writes to Guy about the child, but gets no response. Eventually, Rebecca realises she has been a fool, and a week after giving birth to Daniel, marries Charlie.
Daphne is a member of the upper classes in England, though she went to school with Rebecca Salmon. She hardly remembers her, except that she gave a book of art to her and got free cream buns from her father. However, when approached by Rebecca about sharing rooms, she takes delight in finding out that Rebecca's mother was worried about her rather than the opposite. She took Rebecca in as a roommate, to the delight of her parents, who were worried about a single woman living alone.
Daphne takes considerable interest in Rebecca's future, both as an academic, and as a businesswoman. She learns of Becky's foolish offer on the greengrocery shop, and after careful investigation of the opinion of several people about Charlie, she backs the deal on her own terms. When Charlie returns home after the war, Daphne realises that Rebecca's faith in him was justified. She becomes determined to play matchmaker between them, and educates Charlie in social niceties. She eventually unites them, and makes her own marriage in her own social class. However, having gained great insight into retailing, she also knows the British banking system. She knows that the banking clan is snobbish, and does not back a successful businessman if he does not have a title. She very wisely suggests the Trumpers get a "front man" – a man with the right background who will open doors for them with his connections and class. Colonel Hamilton nicely fits the bill, even though he is not Daphne's first choice. Daphne also responds to Guy's letter in which he tries to explain the events leading to Rebecca's pregnancy. Daphne is totally insulted by his attempt, in which he assumes that she is gullible, and would believe the story that Rebecca forced herself on him.
Colonel Hamilton was the commanding officer of Charlie and Guy Trentham's unit in the First World War, but he was discharged after the war. At loose ends, he initially encounters the post-war Charlie in his greengrocers shop while running errands for his wife. He invites Charlie to the company dinner, where he encounters Rebecca, Charlie's date. At the dinner, Rebecca suggests he become their "front man". While initially reluctant, he decides to observe the shop secretly before making a commitment. Once satisfied that Charlie is a hard worker and is generating business, combined with his lack of other employment options, he accepts the offer. While he knew he was in over his head when it came to business, his background and old school tie allowed him to get the loan for the Trumper company. He gets involved in the business, offering suggestions, but defers to Charlie's judgement. He does, however, agree to be chairman of the company. His background, new position, and the success of Charlie's business allows them to get additional loans to acquire additional freeholds on buildings in Chelsa Square.
Daphne, after receiving Guy Trentham's letter, picks him to confide in. Colonel Hamilton advises her on how to respond, and also asks his wife what he should do. She advises him to either write to Guy, write to his commanding officer, or forget the whole mess. He opts for the second option, and also attempt to discuss the matter with Guy's father. He instead encounters Mrs. Trentham, who coldly insists Guy had nothing to do with Rebecca's pregnancy. He later learns that Mrs. Trentham bought a block of flats in Chelsa Square, solely to keep the Trumpers from getting them.
In recap, Charlie marvels at the shop that bears his name, when Rebecca introduces him to the manager. He finds he has a flat above the shop, but spends most of the night rearranging the displays for better traffic. In no time at all he's back at costermongering, and building up a devoted base of customers. He starts on his program of acquisition, marries Rebecca, and also secretly starts taking university classes. He also attends Daphne's wedding to Percy and admires the paintings. Along with the painting Tommy left him, starts his lifelong interest in buying paintings. Upon Daphne and Percy's return, he finds out from Percy that Guy Trentham was forced to resign from the army, based not only on his actions with Rebecca, but also an affair with the adjutants wife.
Charlie and Rebecca move into a house, and she gets pregnant again. Charlie has the little painting reframed, but is assaulted by Guy Trentham on the way home, who steals the painting. He also finds that Guy broke into his home, and caused his wife trauma which resulted in a stillborn daughter.
Rebecca recovers, and Charlie focuses on business once again. One of his employees delivers to him a list of girls applying for work in his florist shop, with a note on one of them. She was unqualified for the position, but had been a maid for the Trentham family. She was discharged for having an affair with the second footman. Charlie employs her as a maid for his family, but her real job is to gather information on the Trenthams (as the maid is still with the footman).
This information comes in handy when the art gallery in Chelsea Square is auctioned off. While Charlie and Rebecca develop a plan to thwart Mrs. Trentham, it ultimately fails, as she bids higher than them for the property. Just before she's about to win the auction, Charlie returns with a new, higher bid, and the bidding goes to very high levels. Mrs. Trentham wins, with a bid of twelve thousand pounds. When asked what he was doing by Rebecca, Charlie responds that he knew she would go up to ten thousand pounds, as it was her bank balance.
Mrs. Trentham begins by stating she is not a snob, and retells the story from her perspective. She glosses over her rude manners towards Rebecca, stating only that she was the type of girl who brought out the worst in her. She is relieved when Guy brings another girl over a few weeks later. She similarly believes Guy when he tells her that he wasn't the father of Rebecca's baby, and we learn that she deliberately arranged for a meeting with herself instead of her husband (an M.P.) with Colonel Hamilton, as she scheduled it during a three line whip.
She employs a private detective to dig up some information, and learns through him that Charlie is not denying the child was his, and his name is on the birth certificate. However, she does learn her son resigned his commission, and would have been cashiered if he hadn't resigned. Upon his return to their estate, he has the stolen painting. Mrs. Trentham arranges to hide the painting, sets up false clues regarding the assault, and sends her son to Australia. From there she spreads a rumour that he was offered a partnership in a cattle business that was too good to pass up. She continues to send him money.
After the auction of the art gallery and auction house, she realises she doesn't have enough money to pay in full, and sacrifices her deposit. She then learns about Guy's impending death, and sails to Australia to bring his body back home and arrange matters in Australia.
With the threat of a general strike, Charlie resolves to keep business as usual, and buys a few more shops at low prices. However, he prepares for unrest (in the form of a general strike) with drills, and responds well. Mr. Fothergill, the owner of the art gallery, approaches Charlie, saying that Mrs. Trentham was unable to pay for his shop. Charlie agrees to buy the place, but only at the maximum his board would allow. It will be Rebecca's new job after she has completed her thesis for her master's degree (she had already been employed at Sotheby's, starting at the front desk and working her way up). Both attend the graduation ceremony for it, but to Rebecca's shock, Charlie has also been awarded a degree in mathematics, having secretly been attending classes for eight years.
Things at the gallery are rough, as Charlie keeps trying to steal the best pieces for his own art collection. However, things are smooth enough that he and Rebecca take a trip to the United States. He instantly falls in love with Bloomingdale's, and spends the next several days taking notes about the entire operation. He is eventually noticed by security, who question him about his actions. He reveals who he is, and meets John Bloomingdale. The two talk about retailing and department stores, and become friends. In Chicago, he is similarly impressed with Marshall Fields and its owner. He resolves to build a store greater than either of those in London.
Upon his return to England, he meets a Jewish refugee who had patiently waited outside his office for several weeks, even though Charlie was in America. The refugee is attempting to sell jewellery; all he has left from his flight from Germany. Charlie buys the man's jewels, and makes him the manager of the jewellery department in the process. He also realises war is inevitable.
He faces another problem in the form of his sister Kit, who was caught shoplifting. He declines to press charges, but bans her from the store. War starts, and the first shop to fall victim to the German bombs is Mrs. Trentham's flats. The second victim is Charlie's greengrocers store, which Charlie takes a personal affront to. He re-enlists in the army, but is summoned to Prime Minister Churchill's office. Churchill needs him for logistics; obtaining and distributing food for both the troops and the home front. Charlie studies the problems, and makes recommendations. When he realises there are not enough men to drive trucks or work on farms, he tells the minister of food to get women instead. Daniel, his son, enlists, but does not go to the front. He was a mathematic student, and worked on a top secret project (cryptology, including the breaking of the enigma code). He notes that Daniel looks a lot like his father when in his captain's uniform. Charlie also learns of the death of Mrs. Trentham's father, and seizes the chance to buy the remaining shops in Chelsea Square before she can grab them.
Unbeknown to anybody, from a very young age Daniel knew he was illegitimate. His mind, suited to solving puzzles, stored various bits of overheard conversation. While he grew to be a professor of maths, and helped in the code-breaking of the Enigma device during World War II, he also solved the puzzle of who his true father was, and decided to track him down. During summer holidays, he sets sail to America, telling his parents he is visiting math professors, but instead goes to Australia, where he finds his biological father was a deadbeat who died in jail. He isn't told he was hanged.
Daniel also realised that Mrs. Trentham's hatred of the Trumpers stems from him, as Rebecca named Guy Trentham as his father at the time. While Mrs. Trentham was blocking the build of the large department store, as well as building dreadful flats with her property, Daniel decides to take matters into his own hand by dressing as Guy, knowing his similar appearance will force Mrs. Trentham into acknowledging him as her grandson. He successfully bargains with her, getting her to drop her objections to the store and drop the hideous flats, but is asked to give up any claim to the Hardcastle (Mrs. Trentham's father) estate in return. He does so, but feels uneasy about it afterwards.
Mrs. Trentham is horrified to learn her father plans to leave everything to Daniel Trumper. Her father tells her he's studied him for some time, and his convinced he's of his blood, from his appearance to his mannerisms. However, he did not intent to let Daniel know of his fortune until he turned 30. Upon her father's death, Mrs. Trentham engages in a campaign to swindle her sister out of her legacy, as well as that of Daniel Trumper. She succeeds in both, and uses the estate to buy as much stock in Trumper's stock as she can, intending for her son Nigel to become chairman of the company. She later bargains to sell her property to Trumpers for even more stock. In the interim, she has Kitty, Charlie's sister, place the painting Charlie inherited from Tommy at the debut auction of Trumpers, then having a man claim it was stolen.
Charlie and Becky figure out the painting was a masterwork, and was stolen during World War I. They feel it was likely that Guy Trentham planted it in Tommy's effects, as Guy would have known the value, and used it to blackmail Charlie if the true events of the war came to light. However, a bishop of the church gambles the Trumpers are fair players, and agrees to publicly state the one for sale was a copy in exchange for the real painting, allowing all sides to save face. Later, a young assistant named Cathy Ross spots the same man who declared the painting stolen property looking at a silver tea set. Becky contacts the police, and eventually finds it was stolen. They turn the situation into their advantage by briefing the press themselves, showing that the Trumpers are showing concern for any item of dubious origin.
Later, Charlie and Becky are informed of Daniel's provision under the terms of Raymond Hardcastle's will. They go to inform him of his lineage, but are first surprised by his announcement of his engagement to Cathy Ross, then by a call from their attorney, who informs them of the contract Daniel signed. In the meantime, Nigel Trentham is placed as a member of the board of directors of Trumpers after controlling enough stock through his mother's actions. The goal is for Nigel Trentham to replace Charlie as the chairman.
Cathy grew up in Australia in an orphanage, never knowing her parents. Her single artefact from her past was a miniature M.C., which she wore as a necklace. She snooped around, then found there was an engraving on the miniature M.C. of the initials G.F.T. However, nobody in the Australian military had those initials. Her only hope was the war office in England. While she had an art degree, she was not accepted at Slade, and out of options, agreed to work in a hotel as a chambermaid for a year in exchange for passage to England. In her spare time, she tracks down her father as Guy Trentham. She also notes that Charlie Trumper was a member of that regiment. She finds the shops, and asks about getting a job in the art gallery. She interviews with Becky Trumper, and lands a job, first as a counter girl, then working in the art department. In the process, she learns of the feud between the Trenthams and the Trumpers.
Invited to the housewarming party of the Trumpers, she meets Daniel Trumper, and the two become lovers. In the midst of it, she writes to Mrs. Trentham concerning her birth, and she replies, and later reveals to Daniel her period is two weeks late. However, Mrs. Trentham sent a letter to Daniel regarding Cathy, resulting in his suicide.
Cathy was traumatised by Daniel's suicide, and Charlie and Becky take her in. Charlie also starts butting heads with Nigel Trentham in the boardroom, as Nigel's suggestions are usually ill-founded. Cathy becomes the Trumper's protégé, as they loved her as their son's chosen wife. Mrs. Trentham dies, and leaves her estate to Nigel. Nigel intends to use the money as colleratal to mount a hostile takeover of Trumpers. However, Sir Raymond Hardcastle had foreseen the possibility, and added a clause to his will allowing for two years to find a different legitimate heir before his estate was probated. Charlie and his staff work diligently to try to find one with no luck, until, close to the closing date, Daphne overhears it, and tells both Charlie, Becky, and their attorney's that looking in England was a waste of time. They begin looking in Australia, and eventually piece together that Cathy Ross was the legitimate daughter of Guy Trentham and his wife (who he murdered and was hung for). However, Mrs. Trentham took elaborate measures to hide her.
In a confrontation between Nigel and his attorneys, and Charlie and his, the key bit of evidence was the M.C. miniature worn by Cathy. Cathy says it was given to her by her father (her one clear memory of him), and Nigel claims he can prove it wasn't his brother's. The full M.C. was engraved with his initials by his mother, and insists that a miniature would have also been engraved. The medal is examined under a magnifying glass, and the attorney's admit the case is proven – Cathy's M.C. miniature bore the engravement. Without the estate's money to back his stock, Nigel is forced to sell and resign as a board member. Cathy becomes the new chairman of Trumpers.
Charlie is named life president, but is eventually banned from the store, to let the next generation take over. As he has become a lord, he attends parliament, and suddenly gains a new hold on life, rising early and talking about agriculture committees. However, when a request came in for an order of Cuban cigars for Mr. Field from the US, neither Becky or Cathy knows which brand he smokes (Cuban cigars were now illegal in the US after the trade embargo from Cuba; Charlie had substituted Trumper brands for the Cuban ones). They find out that Charlie's tales of parliament and committees were a fabrication. They eventually track him down to his origins – finding him selling fruits and vegetables out of a barrow with great success. Both laugh at the situation, but realise Charlie is happy doing what he always loved best. Cathy notes he's come a long way since his youth at the barrow, but Becky says it was really only a few miles – As the Crow Flies.
- "As the Crow Flies". goodreads.com. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "As the Crow Flies". amazon.com. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "As the Crow Flies". barnesandnoble.com. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Boscombe, Lucille. "Book Reviews as the Crow Flies by Jeffrey Archer". Retrieved 10 November 2013.