The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – REVIEW
In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Oxfordshire. 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.
“One must forgive oneself the past or else the journey into the future becomes unbearable.”
Kate Morton is an auto-buy author for me so I was thrilled to receive a proof copy of her latest book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. A Kate Morton novel is always incredibly atmospheric with lyrical writing that sweeps the reader away. The Clockmaker’s Daughter is no exception, with the engagingly evocative language drawing the reader further into the mystery behind Birchwood Manor and its enigmatic narrator. As I’ve come to expect from this author, the richly drawn characters are at the heart of the story.
“People value shiny stones and lucky charms, but they forget that the most powerful talismans of all are the stories that we tell to ourselves and to others.”
The chapters alternate between modern-day characters, an unknown narrator at Birchwood Manor, and a series of characters from 1862 to 1940. The characters are further connected via chance meetings and familial ties allowing the author to draw all the narrative threads into a cohesive whole. My favourite character was the narrator known as Birdie, who now stands outside time, watching these events unfold. She was a complex and enchanting character, and the central mystery of who she is drives the story forward. Each point of view is seemingly connected to Birchwood Manor, emphasising the relationship between people and place. The house is a beacon to people who have experienced loss in some way, often proving to be a place of gradual healing or acceptance.
“Each clock is unique … And just like a person, its face, whether plain or pretty, is but a mask for the intricate mechanism it conceals.”
There are numerous themes interwoven through the narrative, with love and loss driving a lot of the action. One of the most interesting mysteries is what happened in the summer of 1862. As tensions, jealousies, longing and resentment build amongst a group of artists spending the summer at Birchwood Manor, a devastating event echoes across time, with secrets being harboured for decades and the answers held by the Manor itself. I was still thinking about this book and its characters for days after finishing which is always a sign of an absorbing story. Overall, this was another phenomenal book from Kate Morton.