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The Clockmaker's Daughter

Review

The Clockmaker's Daughter

Told in dual storylines with lush, vivid detail and tons of heart, THE CLOCKMAKER’S DAUGHTER by Kate Morton is a breathtaking tale of art, mystery and betrayal that will keep readers on their toes.

The novel kicks off with the discovery of a forgotten satchel by archivist Elodie Winslow. In cataloging its items, she discovers a sketchbook that once belonged to artist Edward Radcliffe, as well as a photograph of a stunning woman seemingly out of step with her own time period. Normally a rule follower, Elodie is shocked by her own actions when she takes the satchel home with her in hopes of learning more about its mysterious contents. The daughter of a famous cellist who died tragically when she was only a child, Elodie feels a strange connection to Radcliffe’s sketchbook, particularly a drawing of a house that reminds her of a story her mother used to tell her when she was young. What ties these storylines together is soon revealed to be Birchwood Manor, the historic home of Radcliffe --- and the scene of a tragedy that led to his ultimate downfall.

The true mystery at the heart of THE CLOCKMAKER’S DAUGHTER begins with this tragedy. In the 1860s, Radcliffe was staying at Birchwood Manor with his beloved fiancé when a botched robbery left his betrothed dead and resulted in the loss of an invaluable family heirloom, the Radcliffe Blue. At the time, Radcliffe was rumored to be working on his masterpiece, and in Elodie’s contemporary world, the rumors surrounding his final piece remain popular among art students, including Elodie’s best friend. It was said that Radcliffe was so devastated by the loss of his fiancé that he never worked again. But another theory posits that he was truly bereft by the loss of his muse, another woman entirely who may have taken off with the heirloom. So what is the truth, where is the Radcliffe Blue now, and why does Elodie feel such a strong connection to Birchwood?

"For those looking for a leisurely and thoughtful read full of lush settings and vivid characters, THE CLOCKMAKER’S DAUGHTER is the perfect blend of mystery, nostalgia and love."

As Elodie begins a quiet investigation into Radcliffe and her own mother’s story, we alternate points of view between a ghost who is tied to Birchwood Manor and a young girl who once lived there when it served as a girls’ school. Although it is not always easy to determine who is driving the car, Morton’s deft, lyrical mastery of words will have you absorbed regardless of the era or point of view. It feels clichéd to say that this book reads like the gears of a clock, and yet that is exactly what I pictured as each individual storyline began to converge with another. Because the story takes place over the span of about 150 years, there is a lot to take in, but Morton is adept at inserting period details in ways that do not seem overbearing or forced. Until you have become acquainted with the voices of the characters, it is these details that allow you to anchor yourself in each storyline.

THE CLOCKMAKER’S DAUGHTER is not a book you can settle into easily, and I will be the first to admit that Morton makes her readers work for answers, but I can assure you that the satisfaction of tying up all the loose ends is worth every ounce of confusion. If you are initially turned off by the sudden switches in voice, stay strong until about the 30% mark. This is when the plotlines begin to converge, and Morton’s talent for weaving storylines, viewpoints and hidden clues truly shines.

Because the book weaves together several points of view and a number of mysteries, it is more than a little difficult to accurately review, but what I can say is that each of Morton’s characters tugged at my heartstrings and made the story unputdownable. Even her supporting and minor characters felt intensely personal, and it is not difficult to find a reason to connect with each and every one of them. While Elodie is probably the character with whom most bookish types will identify, I was captivated by the characters of Lily Millington and young Ada. The resounding theme that ties each character together --- beyond the mystery --- is abandonment, and Morton writes of their pain with such heart and such grief that they practically leap off the page.

For those looking for a leisurely and thoughtful read full of lush settings and vivid characters, THE CLOCKMAKER’S DAUGHTER is the perfect blend of mystery, nostalgia and love. Morton’s passion for intertwining plotlines is at its height here, and longtime fans will appreciate the lengths to which she has pushed herself, though newcomers might be better off starting with an earlier, shorter title from this gem of an author.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on October 26, 2018

The Clockmaker's Daughter
by Kate Morton

  • Publication Date: October 9, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1451649398
  • ISBN-13: 9781451649390