The Clockmaker's Daughter

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

Kate Morton is strongest when writing about houses, houses with history, atmospheric, beautiful, brooding houses. Birchwood Manor in ‘The Clockmaker’s Daughter’ is haunted by what happened there. A death, a theft, a drowning. The truth is a complicated tale of twists and turns, Morton gives us numerous characters from slices of history from a Pre-Raphaelite group of artists to National Trust-like ownership today.
The mystery starts from page one, the Prologue, told in the voice of an unknown woman remembering her arrival at Birchwood Manor with Edward. When the rest of the house party leave, ‘I had no choice; I stayed behind.’ Is she a ghost? Cut straight to today and archivist Elodie who unpacks an old leather satchel finds inside a photograph of a woman and an intriguing sketchbook. Leafing through the pages she stops dead, seeing a drawing of a house she knows though she has never been there. It featured in a bedtime story told by her mother. Is it a real place? Does it have magical powers as local tales suggest? ‘It is a strange house, built to be purposely confusing. Staircases that turn at unusual angles, all knees and elbows and uneven treads; windows that do not line up no matter how one squints at them; floorboards and wall panels with clever concealments.’
The mysteries of the drawing, the house, the girl in the photograph and a missing blue diamond are told in multiple viewpoints from 1862 to today. Four big mysteries to unravel means complicated threads woven between the years and the characters and I was tempted to keep notes of who said what and lost track of the year, a couple of times. At the end, I was left with a couple of outstanding questions but nothing to spoil my enjoyment of the book. I found the title rather misleading as Birdie the clockmaker’s daughter, though being one of the key characters, is not the only essential component. The house though is at the centre of everything.
We follow the story of Elodie, whose mother died when she was six and who is about to be married. Of Birdie, who lost her mother when she was four and was left with a baby farmer and trained as a pickpocket. Of Ada Lovegrove who is essentially abandoned by her parents who bring her from India and dump her at Birchwood House, now a school for young ladies. Of Leonard Gilbert, survivor of the Great War, who comes to Birchwood to write a biography of the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Radcliffe. Of Jack Rolands who is living now at Birchwood and seems to be searching for something. Of Lucy Radcliffe, Edward’s little sister, and my favourite character. Lucy, a curious little girl, encouraged by her brother to improve her mind by reading, was ‘learning fast that she knew a lot less about her own motivations than she did about the way the internal combustion engine worked.’
Piece by piece, Elodie unravels the true story. The story switches quickly between narrators which can be disorientating and it is only towards the end that some links fit into the bigger picture which makes it a little frustrating. Morton does not write short novels, this is 592 pages, and at times I wanted to cut superfluous detail to get to the meat of the story. A beautiful cover, though.
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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.
This has a good intriguing setting, but I have to say this was not one of Moreton’s best in my view. It should have had all the ingredients for a great tale, told across time that was held together by Birdie Bell, the fascinating clockmaker’s daughter. Unfortunately I found some of the characters too pretentious and the story progression incredibly slow – so that there was no draw to keep turning those pages.... The supernatural ghost narrative offered another intriguing angle but seemed to dissolve into a less consequential purpose.
There was plenty of intrigue about what had happened all that time ago. I liked the structure and intent for the story, the descriptions were impressive, but think the characters didn't quite fulfil their required part. I didn't dislike what had happened in the reveal, but because it was so drawn out, it actually then felt a little limp and underwhelming. Saying this it wasn't an unpleasant read and would imagine there are enough fans that will have enjoyed it for its author pedigree, but as you can tell I was left just a tad disappointed.
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The painter, Edward Radcliffe, and his sisters and friends visit his new house, Birchwood Manor one Summer.  Edward is a member of the Magenta Brotherhood and has his new muse, Lily Millington, with him but not his fiancée, Frances Brown.  Then uninvited visitors begin to arrive and the party changes tone.  Time shifts to 1940 and yet another family arrives, but there's more to the house than meets their eye and soon the future and past begin to intertwine whilst the house tries to tell it's story.

In some senses, I did enjoy this book.  Individually, I liked all families and their stories and the central mystery, although predictable, is quite a clever idea.  I think the trouble is that the story is just a little bit too clever for it's own good and I'm not sure it all makes sense in one novel.  All the endings tying together is, frankly, just unnecessary and it is really, in the end, just too much over the top for my liking.

I did like Lucy's character most of all and would have preferred a lot more of the story to be centred on her and Edward, who is too much of a shadowy figure and seems to just disappear conveniently for a lot of the time.  Elodie, the researcher is also one I liked, but Elodie the bride to be was not necessary and didn't add to an already rather crowded story.

All in all, I think a bit of editing and taking out one of the strands might have made this novel hang together a little better and made it more enjoyable.  It was one I reasonably enjoyed but I wouldn't particularly go out of my way to recommend.
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This book has been my least favourite of Kate Mortons so far. The story took ages to get going and I tried to read this back in September but could not read it. The story builds over time and when it gets good, it gets good. The story is interesting but when i compare it to her other books, it had less want to continue this than I did with the other two i've read by her. It's a good historical fiction set in the present day and previous years but it's not overwhelmingly amazing.
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Another fast paced epic novel by Kate Morton. I loved the story of the events at Birchwood Manor in 1862 when the painter Edward Radcliffe took his friends to stay and how it ended in a mystery with a woman dead and another missing with his family's priceless heirloom. How Elodie Winslow the daughter of a famous pianist who died when she was young connects to the story is through a n old satchel with a photograph of a young woman and a beautiful sketch book which as an archivist she investigates. Poor Elodie is swamped with worries over her forthcoming wedding and feels that she is really only expected to turn up and play no part in the arrangements, as her fiancée and his mother are doing everything. When Elodie begins to connect the story of the past it begins to unravel her problems with the future. Well done - a great novel!
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If you like historical fiction with beautiful writing then I recommend Kate Morton (I remember reading and loving The Lake House too). I struggled a bit with the pacing and this is a large book so that can be a concern but once the plot starts to come together it picks up a lot.
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This title is an epic set over multiple time periods with a dazzling cast of characters whose threads, relationships and secrets all interconnect. How the author brings it all together, is very impressive, but bittersweet. Birchwood Manor, the house where much of the story takes place is like a character within it's own right and adds a very atmospheric background to an, on occasion, spine-tingling narrative. This book does require commitment. At nearly 600 densely packed pages with many characters and threads, it's not for the faint hearted, but if you're looking for a rich story to lose yourself in then this is for you.
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Kate Morton has been one of my favourite authors for a while now after reading The House at Riverton and loving it -- so I always keep my eyes peeled for a new book. When I'd seen on her Instagram account that she was writing a new novel, I was eagerly waiting its release. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw it for request on NetGalley and was even then approved! Needless to say, I was hoping this book was going to live up Morton's previous captivating storytelling. And ultimately, this book didn't disappoint either. There was a fair bit of detail to wade through at the beginning of the book, and it probably wasn't until I'd reached the halfway point that the pull of the book really began to take hold. But once it did, oh boy, I couldn't put it down! Morton's books always centre around a family mystery and I'm always fascinated by such things so it definitely held my interest, the ending was in-keeping, and the standard of writing was equally high. There were some characters that I didn't completely gel with or weren't particularly memorable but I think this is OK. Rating it as 4 stars just because it did take longer to get into than I would've liked and I may have put it down if weren't for my prior experience with her books. I'm glad I persevered!
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This is the first Kate Morton book I have read and thought it was beautifully written. I very much enjoyed the setting and time span of this story - 1862 through to 2017. The disappearance of a very valuable pendant at the beginning of this timeline and the ripples it creates becomes part of a puzzle for Elodie in 2017. Elodie knows she has a family connection to Birchwood Manor, where the jewel went missing, and is determined to solve the mystery. Sometimes a little confusing but all made sense in the end.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC.
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This is the first book I have read by Kate, It took me a while to get into the story, but enjoyed the book in the end. I couldn't relate to the characters though which was its down fall. It has not put me off reading any more  of Kate books tho.
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I'm not sure about this book, I've loved Kate Morton's other books but I felt that there were just too many characters in this one.
The story moves forward and backward in time between 1862 and the present day and tells the story of a house and its various inhabitants, from a group of artists in Victorian England to a curator of a museum.
Much of the time that I was reading was taken up trying to remember which character was which thus spoiling the flow of the story.
Towards the end of the book, once I had sorted out who was who I enjoyed it a bit more, but fewer people in the story would have been a much better read.
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Loved this book, it's got a bit of everything - murder, mystery, love, loss, history. I really enjoyed the way it was told from the point of view of different characters over different time periods, made for a really interesting read. Whilst it's not my favourite Kate Morton novel, it was a similar beautiful and evocative read that you would expect from this author.
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This took me a little while to get into, but about a quarter of the way in I was hooked. The story is beautifully told and I could just imagine how it would feel to have been at the house over the different timelines described. I even surprised myself by getting a bit upset when the truth is finally revealed. Highly recommended.
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A lovely read yet unfortunately I found not as upto standard as Kate Morton’s previous outings. Harder to get into and less pulled into the characters
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Plot: Elodie is a young archivist in London who comes across a leather satchel with an old photograph and an artist’s sketchbook with a drawing of a house on a riverbend. The house feels instinctively familiar to Elodie, but she can’t figure out why. This plunges us into the tale of the house, Birchwood Manor, on the banks of the Upper Thames, and its history all the way back to 1862, when a group of artists spend their summer at the house, ending in tragedy and a missing heirloom.

My thoughts: Somehow I’ve never read a Kate Morton book before, although they’ve always seemed just like my thing. On reading this one, I’ve decided – yes, they definitely are my thing! Set across multiple time periods, with a hint of the gothic, a splash of mystery, romance and even the supernatural, it’s got all the elements of an excellent book. Throw in that fantastic plot and you’ve got me hooked! The only place I’d say it falls down is that, at times, the multiple characters were a little confusing – each section was told from a different viewpoint, which meant that the characters’ stories were cleverly intertwined with some appearing in each others’ stories, but there were a lot of them!
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You need to have your wits about you for this book 

It has many characters one of which is a ghost and so many storylines 

All of the storylines are told beautifully and even though this is not the best Kate Morton book ever written it is fantastic with plenty of intricate twists and turns 

If you like a big book which you can really get lost in together with a bit of historical fiction chucked in then this is the book for you
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With thanks to the publisher and to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book.  

The Clockmaker's Daughter is a story that spans across three significant periods of the history of a remote country house.  In the Victorian part of the story it is the home of a romantic painter, a member of the 'Magenta Brotherhood', which has a close parallel in the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, right down to the beauty, auburn hair and sensuous mouth of the artist's favourite model and some of the chosen subject matters of the painting and photographic essays which absorb the artists.  The story of the house resumes in the Second world War, where it is the refuge of a bombed out family and again in the present day, where it has a new incarnation as a house/museum for the artists of the Magenta Brotherhood.

The story winds along like the lazy river that is such an important part of the story, and at times, it seems to lack pace.  During these passages there are small, telling details that need to be attended to and remembered in the final part of the story when the mystery and confusion falls into place and the tragic end of the beautiful model becomes horrifyingly apparent.  

It's not too much to compare the plotting to Wilkie Collins at times and to be reminded of characters in Dickens in the deft little pick pocket making her way through the streets of London.  A well plotted novel which  requires careful reading and which rewards with rich and beautiful descriptive passages.
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So dreamy so eerie so tragic yet full of love light and beauty.

I really enjoyed this book. I’ve struggled with Kate Morton in the past but this story was fascinating. It weaves and ebbs and takes you on a journey back and forth through the ages. 

I found myself sucked in from the beginning, curious about the relationship between Lily and Eloise and what was so special about that house. I think the author fleshed out the characters quite well and I was fully invested in who they were. The pace started off evenly in the beginning and then slowed down tremendously in the middle (found myself struggling to stay awake in parts where she goes into the stories of the different people that stayed in the house) but then it picks up again and races to the end as we finally find out what really happened to Lily in her tragic end. 

Giving this 4 stars because the story is a little convoluted and there are quite a lot of snooze worthy sections in the middle I could have down without. Nevertheless, still a very layered beautiful story that left me feeling good. Would definitely recommend.
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I'm really sorry but this book just wasn't for me and I didn't manage to finish it. Apologies but thank you very much for the review copy
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There's something so magical about a new Kate Morton book. I love her writing style and I have to say that when I was reading The Clockmaker's Daughter, I found myself marvelling at the way she manages to write with such authenticity where other writers might struggle with bringing such a story to life through the page. She's absolutely at the top of her game.

Reading a Kate Morton is a time undertaking. They're always big, this one is 600 pages, but the undertaking is one well worth making as it's like starting out on a whole new adventure. Having said that, I did find this book took a little getting into, not in a 'I'm bored with this' kind of way but more in terms of having to take it slowly, absorb it all and wait whilst this incredibly talented writer started to bring all the threads together.

And it was worth waiting for. The story is wonderfully intricate and involving. It's told by multiple voices over the course of 160 or so years which seem at first to have little connection to each other, but then secrets are revealed, mysteries start to be resolved and all of a sudden there is a dawning realisation of how everything and everybody is interlinked. The main characters are Elodie Winslow, the archivist who finds something in the course of her work that not only piques her interest but actually seems to have an invisible thread drawing her to Birchwood Manor, and an at first unknown narrator whose story is the glue that binds herself and Elodie with the other voices that we hear. I loved both of them, even though they're quite different people, but I also very much enjoyed the sections looking at the other characters' and their time at Birchwood Manor. 

As is customary with Morton's work, a house is at the very heart of the action and this time it is Birchwood Manor which takes centre stage. It has an ethereal presence in the narrative and if you're thinking that a house can't have a presence then you're wrong as this one most definitely does.

The Clockmaker's Daughter is just utterly beautiful and enchanting, engrossing and moving. It covers a large period in time in fine fashion, taking us from a group of artists, through the two world wars, through the various incarnations of the house, right up to the present day, delighting the reader with an array of fascinating characters with their very own stories to tell. It's a book to savour and enjoy and to thoroughly absorb yourself in. That's what I did and I had myself an absolutely amazing experience.
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