Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Book Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Book: The Clockmaker's Daughter

Author: Kate Morton 

Pages: 592

Read on: Kindle 

Read in: Spread over 3 days 

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Berkshire. 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 a 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.

Things I Liked:

1. I tend to like historical fiction stories because of the split-time structure of the narrative. I love reading about the past- the people, society, culture, the challenges faced by the protagonist in that time period... and very few authors do such a great job of combining history and crime as Kate Morton! My sister and I have read and reviewed several books by her and you can check out those reviews by clicking here. So, obviously, when we found out that a new Kate Morton book was out, we simply had to get and start reading right away. 

2. The world in which the book is set in the mid-19th century is quite fascinating- the world of art. The movement that was sweeping the British art world in the 1860s was Aestheticism or the Aesthetic Movement, which simply put was all about paining, sculpture and drawing capturing the beauty rather than layering on deeper meaning to art. Sort of an 'art for art's sake' school of thought. Edward Radcliffe, one of our protagonists, was at the centre of this movement and our unnamed protagonist- Birdie- was his muse. 

3. I liked reading about Birdie's life, unfortunate as it was, because it highlighted a major problem plaguing the British society in that period, namely, exploitation of poor children in workhouses and other such unsavoury establishments. Birdie's life with Mrs. Dalloway, who ran a thieving business, was terrible but fascinating. As was her friendship with, the boy she referred to, as Pale Joe- a sickly child Birdie befriended when she was on the run from the cops. Birdie's life is tragic- not a spoiler, given it is pretty obvious from Chapter 1 what became of her- but the impact she had on multiple people even after her earthly life is quite moving and, sometimes, fun. 

4. Elodie and Birdie are both interesting characters. Birdie has a lot more gumption while Elodie is someone, who has always lived in the shadow of her famous, beautiful but dead mom.. and so, her journey is about finding her own voice and her own path, which is quite nice as far as journeys go. 

5. At the heart of this story is the house- Birchwood Manor- where, over the years, multiple people drop by, stay for a while and their stories become connected with Birdie's. So, it is nice to see what becomes of those people and how their lives shape up once they move out of the house. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. There are several chapters from multiple people's perspective, who are only peripherally a part of either Elodie or Birdie's lives. These chapters, while adding some fill-in-the-gaps sort of information, were not very engaging otherwise. 

2. Almost all of Kate Morton's books have a love story or two and this book was no different. However, neither of the love stories were handled in any amount of detail, which was slightly disappointing. 

Rating: 4/5 

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