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:
And 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.