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?
“My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows…”
I’ve been a big fan of Kate Morton ever since I read The House at Riverton back in 2008. It was the beginning of a love affair that has lasted over a decade and, after reading The Clockmaker’s Daughter, I can firmly say that the relationship is still going strong. My favorite book of hers will always be The Secret Keeper because of that wonderful twist I will never be able to forget, but I’ve loved all her novels and I truly believe they all have something special. Her last one was my least favorite, perhaps because I thought the ending felt too coincidental, but it was a good story nevertheless.
I had read mixed reviews of The Clockmaker’s Daughter, and I can definitely see why people didn’t love this one as much as her other books, but this is one of those times when I have to disagree with them. Even though I’m perfectly aware that this novel was a bit slow at times, I was instantly captivated, the way I’m always are when I start reading a Kate Morton’s book. And I never lost interest, in fact, I found myself increasingly more intrigued as pages flew by.
The main difference between The Clockmaker’s Daughter and most of her other books is that this novel spans many decades but it doesn’t only focus on two timelines, but instead, it narrates several moments in history. This is the tale of Birchwood Manor and its guests during more than a hundred and fifty years. We, as readers, are witnesses of the effect the house has on every inhabitant, but the main mystery revolves around Edward Radcliffe and his muse, the clockmaker’s daughter. But who exactly is Lily Millington? And what happened on that fateful summer of 1862?
The story is narrated by various points of view, but the title character was my favorite because of her unlikely situation. She takes her time telling us her story, and she also “interacts” with the two present-time characters, Elodie and Jack. Elodie has come across an old photograph of a mysterious woman and the sketch of a beautiful house she finds incredibly familiar, so she decides to investigate why her mother once told her a bedtime story set in that very same house…
Like all Kate Morton’s books, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is full of tragedy, fate encounters, and surprising revelations. This is a complex and multi-layered story that requires you to pay attention to every small detail; otherwise, you might get lost in the way. The author’s prose is delicate and beautiful as usual, and if you happen to love her evocative writing, I truly believe you will enjoy this magical puzzle as much as I did.
Thanks to the publishers for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review