For those of us that love a rich multi-layered dual time-line story The Clockmaker’s Daughter fits the bill perfectly.
Telling the story across multiple protagonists ranging from the Victorian era in 1862 until 2017, much ground is covered weaving times, places and of course romances to delight and intrigue the reader. At the very heart of the story is a house, Birchwood Manor which lies on the bank of the River Thames.
The first owner was a successful artist, Edward Radcliffe part of the group of the ‘Magenta Brotherhood’, who bought the house on a whim. Indeed it is with this group that he decamped with on a summer break to do artisty things at Birchwood Manor in 1862. His younger sister was delighted to be invited along but while they were staying his fiancée was killed and Edward sunk into a depression.
In 2017 Elodie Winslow an archivist is herself engaged to be married. A mysterious satchel connected to the archive she is in charge of and the satchel contains a sketchbook. She also finds a picture of a beautiful woman wearing a dress that provides some inspiration for her wedding dress. But she can’t leave it at that and she begins to investigate who could have owned the items, and that just leads to more mysteries to solve.
Between these two time periods we meet seemingly unconnected characters to either time line, there is a school for young ladies, a war widow and her young children… and a ghost. Now I’m not known for my love of ghosts but fortunately this isn’t one of the scary variety more a soul who links the owners and inhabitants of the house, giving us insight on all that has seen through the years, and she can be quite cutting about some of them. So despite my usual reluctance to entertain anything that has the hint of the supernatural, this mysterious woman, known as Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter, became one of my favourite characters of the entire novel.
This is a book to devote yourself to otherwise, especially in the early chapters, it could become a little elusive. The story takes a while to get into and I found sorting the characters out and putting them in context took a while, but as time goes on they become more distinct and able to entertain not only in their own right, they become part of the whole story. This is a book where you definitely feel you’ve been on a journey; from pickpockets in Covent Garden to beautiful artist’s novels, to young girls who are sent to boarding school, adrift from their families, to a woman who has lost nearly all that she holds dear. And on the characters and backstories come until the present day to Elodie who lost her mother, a talented musician, when she was a young girl and can’t work out how or why. With an impending marriage and a mother-in-law who is keen to play the recordings of her mother’s performances at the wedding the past is at the forefront of her mind.
The ending is delightful and neatly rounded off what at times could seem like a tale of all the various heart-aches a human can endure. Although this wasn’t my personal favourite of Kate Morton’s novels it is definitely a story that will haunt me, and may even have got me passed my hatred of those ghostly beings!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Mantle who allowed me to read and absorb a myriad of lives. This unbiased review is my thanks to them, and to Kate Morton for continuing to write such amazing tales. It takes a great deal of skill to create characters who at times crept uninvited into my thoughts, distracting me from my work or the real people around me. I love a book with a puzzle in it, and so this novel that had a whole string of them was an immensely satisfying read.