All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

on September 12, 2018

The Clockmaker’s Daughter
Kate Morton
Allen & Unwin
2018, 592p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.

What a book this was.

I’ve only read one Kate Morton book before although she’s one of Australia (and probably the world’s) most loved authors. Her books have sold millions of copies. I have two more of her books on my TBR shelf and the second I saw this one’s beautiful cover I knew I would have to read it. I dedicated a whole weekend to it – it’s a thick read, coming in at close to 600p. And every single one of those pages is beautifully written and serves the ambitious and sprawling story.

In the present day, Elodie Winslow is an archivist in London who discovers a leather satchel containing a framed photograph and a sketchbook. She is inexplicably drawn to both – the beautiful woman in the photo radiates beauty and life. The sketchbook contains pictures of a house Elodie finds very familiar to her although she’s sure she’s never been there. Elodie is a lovely character, struggling under the tasks of organising a wedding that seems to have little to do with her. It’s so easy for her to fall into looking into the photograph, the satchel and sketchbook, under the guise of it being her job but it becomes so much more than that for her.

This book contains a many different time periods and a large cast of characters but they all blend seamlessly together into one cohesive story. There are characters introduced that seem relatively unimportant but then later on things click together and what began several hundred pages ago with a chance meeting is suddenly the reason for something else or strengthens a connection between two previously unrelated characters. This is such a well constructed story, the sort where those 600p feel like nothing. I’m normally quite a fast reader but I found myself deliberately slowing down with this book, savouring every word and sentence. This is almost not just one story but many mini stories within a story, through generations, all of which are connected to the house, Birchwood Manor.

Birchwood Manor has such presence in the story, for all of those who come into contact with it. For Edward in 1862, it’s a place of refuge and inspiration, where he can complete his masterpiece with his muse and his other artistic friends can take advantage of the fantastic light and picturesque surroundings. For others it’s an idea of progressive change, a romantic honeymoon sighting, a port in a storm, a friend during a time in need. I love the mystical elements that were wound into the story in connection to the house and the sort of ‘guardian’ that watched over the house and its occupants throughout the years. I ended up feeling such a connection to the keeper of the house and was so invested in what had happened to them, which takes quite a long time to be revealed but this isn’t a negative thing because Morton paces it so well and builds the atmosphere and tension so admirably. Each time we slipped into a different decade or time period, I would be immediately swept up with new characters and a new situation just as fervently as I was with the previous ones. Each different incarnation of the house is so fascinating that I never felt that reluctance or regret I sometimes feel in time slip novels when the narrative switches.

These are the most difficult reviews to write, when you love a book so much. It’s hard to find the right words. But everything about this book is a masterpiece. I am so impressed by just how much there was woven into it, how many threads and characters that all came together in so many different ways to create this story as a whole. There are sad elements, for children abandoned or lost and exploited, there are romantic elements for unlikely artistic connections, there are some spooky elements as well as mystery, mayhem and murder! There’s honestly something for everyone in this book and the atmosphere evoked is like nothing I think I’ve ever read before. This was an immersive reading experience with such beautiful writing that it’s something I wish I could immediately start over and read again. It’s the sort of book where you message people midway through to gush about how incredible it is. I cannot recommend this one enough – I want to see what everyone I know thinks of it!


Book #156 of 2018

Kate Morton. Photo credit – Davin Patterson

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is out now from Allen & Unwin RRP$32.99



5 responses to “Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

  1. I have never read a Morton. Looks like I will have to fix that.

    • You definitely should! I feel bad I’ve only read one other. I definitely need to make more of an effort to get through her backlist. Just to find the time! (They’re all very solid books).

  2. I knew you’d love it!! And I’m so glad to read that you felt the same way as I did about the amount of characters and the overall length. I am seeing this thread through other reviews that readers were confused by the amount of characters and that it was too long. That’s the complete opposite to how I felt! That was the beauty of it, that there were so many characters and lives with everything seamlessly connected. I feel quite happy now after reading this review, that someone else out there loved it just as much as I did and for the same reasons.

  3. celinelingg says:

    Oh, both the cover and thr story are lovely!

  4. Marg says:

    I’ve just started listening to this today. Can’t wait to really sink my teeth into it!

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