Charlie Trumper was born in 1900. His grandfather who owned and ran a fruit barrow in a London suburb raised him. He was known as The Honest Trader and though he wasn't rich, he was successful in terms of loyal customers. Charlie wasn't much of a student, but he learned a lot about business from his grandfather.
As a youth, Charlie dreams of having his own fruit cart just like his grandfather's. That wish abruptly comes true when his grandfather suddenly dies in the street. Charlie is seventeen. He runs the small business in order to take care of his siblings.
Charlie grows into a man managing that fruit cart. He's trying to buy his own shop when World War I arrives. Charlie goes off to fight, leaving all dreams of self-employment on hold. He leaves his business with Becky, a childhood friend, and instructs her to sell the cart if necessary. He has no choice because of his military obligation to his country.
Imagine Charlie's surprise when he returns to London to see his name on a shop sign. While he was gone, Becky bought a store and managed it, while going to college herself. When Charlie returns, she hands over the store.
It would appear Becky's duty to Charlie is complete, but that isn't exactly the case. They become partners in Trumper's. When Becky is dumped by her fiancé, Guy Trentham, Charlie is there to console her. When Becky gives birth to a child Guy refuses to claim, it is Charlie that proposes and becomes a father to Daniel.
As the Crow Flies follows the lives of Charlie, Becky, Guy and Daniel throughout the majority of the 20th century. We see Charlie and Becky come together as partners to build Trumper's into a successful company owning and managing several businesses. We see Daniel grow into a fine young man. At first he doesn't know that the wealthy Guy Trentham is his father, but he begins to put the pieces together. We see Guy die a mysterious death, which is covered up by a tuberculosis story.
The greatest villain in this story is Guy's mother, Mrs. Trentham. When you read the book, you'll see that Charlie and Guy have very unpleasant ties to each other dating back to World War I. Mrs. Trentham does everything she can to upset business at Trumpers.
As the Crow Flies starts out as a rags to riches novel. We see Charlie start with a mere wheelbarrow and end up with one of the most successful businesses in all of England.
On top of that story is a side plot involving good versus evil. The Trenthams are a bad lot, and the good Trumpers are not afraid to put up a fight for what is right. Jeffrey Archer offers a fair dose of suspense here, as Daniel, Daniel's fiancé, and Charlie all try to uncover the dark secret that Mrs. Trentham is keeping. If the truth can be found, Charlie can destroy the evil Trentham fortune once and for all and save Trumpers from falling into the wrong hands.
I see from the back of this very large paperback that it was on the New York Times bestseller list for 4 months when it was released in the early 1990's, and deservedly so. This is an interesting book that spans many generations of a single family. Through their eyes we see a changing English society.
This is a very easy book to read (despite its weight) and it has an interesting format. The story line is broken down into years, and the sections are told from the perspective of the different characters. For example, Charlie tells the story as it is from 1900-1919. Becky elaborates on Charlie's story from 1918 through 1920. This format continues through 13 sections with the final words described by Becky from 1964-1970. It is an interesting way to narrate a story. Mr. Archer succeeds in narrating the saga so that the characters see the same events differently.
I recommend As the Crow Flies to anyone who likes a rags to riches story. The English humor and slang can be a bit wacky, but it just adds to the charm of this bestseller by Jeffrey Archer.