Book review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter

The Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter
by  Kate Morton
Atria Books

Historical fiction/Historical mystery
485 pages



The Clockmaker’s Daughter has all the main ingredients of a successful book by Kate Morton, as I listed them in my review of The Secret Keeper. However, it contains many more layers, with numerous characters in each.

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?

I thoroughly enjoyed the content of each layer, but their multiplicity made it quite confusing for me, until I reached the last part of the book, where all the connections are finally revealed.

The fact is, I usually take notes when I read, but this time, I dove right into it without bothering, as I like so much Morton’s writing, and especially as I didn’t receive it for review for once!
Bad move: I should have noted down the characters as they came up, and done a chart to see how they connected.
So even though I didn’t love this one to pieces, like
The Forgotten Garden for instance (my favorite of all her books so far), the reading was still pleasurable.

Because there are some beautiful descriptions, like this one:

Morton page 307And as always in Morton’s books, the house is a character in itself, especially alive here through the special nature of the main narrator.

With the central place given to a unique house, first glimpsed in the distance and finally found again, and a mysterious woman on a picture, the book actually often reminded me of my most favorite French classic, The Great Meaulnes, and of another French book I loved a lot in my younger days: Le pays où l’on n’arrive jamais.

Besides, there are lots of passages on art, with the Magenta Brotherhood (possibly based on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood).

I also enjoyed the different voices, and alternation between first and third person narrations.

So if you have never read anything by Kate Morton, I suggest you do not start with this one. The Forgotten Garden is definitely the one to go. But if you are a fan, then you should still find it satisfying. Especially if you take time to list the characters!

VERDICT: Beautiful usual style Morton has accustomed us to read, but the content is a bit confusing this time.

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What’s your favorite book by Morton?


16 thoughts on “Book review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter

  1. I did like The Forgotten Garden but somehow have never read another book by her. With all the art and creativity stuff, this sounds like a book I would like. I will remember to keep a character list, something I do when there are lots of them.


  2. I’ve never read her, but I always admire the covers of her books and, with this one, I was actually inspired to pick up a copy from the “new books” shelf in the library. It looks really good and I like the way you’ve described how intricate it is (although it sounds like you might have found that a little much for your reading taste, whereas I love puzzle novels). Not entirely sure I’ll get through it before the duedate, but the idea of trying appeals to me!


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  5. I was hoping to pick up a copy of The Forgotten Garden at the library today but it was already out on loan. A friend of mine recommended it along with The Lake House. I found an audio of The Clockmaker’s Daughter & just saw you’d reviewed it. I think I’ll skip it and read the other one first as you suggest.


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