Title: The Clockmaker’s Daughter
Author: Kate Morton
Published: September 12th 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary/Historical, Mystery
Rating: 5 stars
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.
In terms of gothic historical fiction, world renowned author Kate Morton’s owns it. The Clockmaker’s Daughter heralds Morton’s return to the publishing world following a turnaround of two years. This is a victorious return for Australia’s golden girl of literature, Kate Morton. The multiple timelines, large set cast, the captivating central mystery and the looming presence of Birchwood Manor, sets The Clockmaker’s Daughter apart from its contemporaries. The Clockmaker’s Daughter is Kate Morton at her epitome. I am happy to declare it is her greatest work to date, this monumental novel transcends Morton’s previous work. Morton rightly deserves all accolades that come her way.
There has been so much expectation weighing in on this novel that I almost avoided it, I was so worried for some reason that I wouldn’t like it as much as Morton’s previous novels. The long wait for a new Morton novel hasn’t helped, but I can now see it was so worth the wait. This book is hands down Kate Morton at her very best. The Clockmaker’s Daughter will not only be in my list of top reads of 2018, but it also earns a slot in my all time favourite reads list. That is a pretty big call for this seasoned bookworm! For new fans to Morton’s work, this is a brilliant book to start your Kate Morton journey. Do not let the breadth sway you in any way to avoid it. For loyal fans of Morton’s work, I am sure you will be breathless by the time you put this grand novel down. It truly is a magnificent and timeless read.
Time is the umbrella theme that covers The Clockmaker’s Daughter and Morton explores this theme extremely well. Time moves forward, back, stalls, is revisited and it flows like a trickle throughout this expansive novel. Then there is the profession of the father of the title character. I loved this part of the novel. The clockmaker’s daughter herself, Birdie, was my favourite of Morton’s extensive cast. Her story is tragic, but utterly compelling. I love Victorian times and Morton delves head first into life at this time, presenting the reader with an excellent insight into this period. Times were hard and we learn through Birdie’s sad tale just how difficult it was to simply survive in this era. The child labour, abandonment, the pick pocketing and the like.
The dedication and sheer amount of research Kate Morton has placed in this sprawling novel is so impressive. Each and every historical frame is composed to perfection. From the Victorian London sewers, to the bombs over the wartime London, to the present day, each narrative thread is carefully designed. Morton takes each period piece in her stride, her prose and framing is effortless, much like her lyrical narrative. To read any Kate Morton novel, especially this one, is music to ones ears. There is an enchanting quality to Morton’s phrasing. Her style is best described as mystical and spellbinding. Every word and sentence has been carefully plucked. The joy of reading certainly comes alive while sifting through the pages of The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
There are so many little hidden treasures to discover in The Clockmaker’s Daughter. The emphasis on art and the brotherhood of artists was such a great touch. The friendship that develops between Birdie and Pale Joe was one of my personal highlights of the novel, I will never forget these heart rendering sequences. Then there is the romance, both in the past and present day, revealing Morton’s implicit understanding of matters of the heart, both in the contemporary and historical world. Morton’s presentation of the place of women, in particular the character of Lucy and her thirst for knowledge is infectious. There is also is the beguiling central mystery of the missing heirloom and whether or not Birdie would ever reunited with her father, which is closely linked to the revelation of the circumstances of her disappearance. This was one of my own prime reasons for reading The Clockmaker’s Daughter. The dramatic pacing did this narrative thread the justice it so rightly deserves.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter demonstrates Kate Morton’s willingness as an author to expand her repertoire and take a risk. This is a visionary novel, which sees Kate Morton move away from her dual time frame, past to present style narratives, to something much more grandiose. The multiple time frames and rich cast of characters, along with the looming central character of the setting Birchwood Manor makes this a celebrated novel. For me personally, the high point of The Clockmaker’s Daughter was the mysterious narrator that inhabits Birchwood Manor, which allows Morton to explore some shadowy, gothic and supernatural undertones. Combined with the gentle hints to fairies, hidden priest holes and even ley lines, this is a startling novel.
When I made it to the finish line I was in a quandary, I didn’t want The Clockmaker’s Daughter to end, but I just had to know how Morton would tie all the many threads of this book together. The final result? Well it left me in a state of melancholy, I choked up and was visibly moved by the parting final paragraph. Put simply, I was astounded by the sheer prestige of this novel. The eternal flame glows bright with The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton was published on 12th September 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Kate Morton, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Clockmaker’s daughter, is book #127 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge