The Clockmaker's Daughter

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

Tried to read this and just couldn’t get into it. Yet expected greatness from this author. I just really struggled as it didn’t capture me which I was hoping it would.
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More marvellousness from Kate Morton. Such an excellent story teller.  My apologies that this review is so late.
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This is the kind of book I used to love but now read very rarely – a long, sprawling, mainstream novel, holding stories set in the present and the past. I picked it up because I loved the idea of a maker of clocks, because I was curious to see what made the author so successful, and because I was eager to escape into a book for a long, long time.

At the heart of this book are events that played out in the summer of 1862.

A group of artists and models gathered at the country estate of Edward Radcliffe, the most successful of those artists. Their sojourn in the country was brought to a sudden and brutal end when Radcliffe’s fiancee was shot dead, and his model and a priceless diamond vanished without trace.

Much could have been done with that story, that setting, those characters, but the detail is only filled in at the very end of the book, after all of the other stories that it touches have been explored.

Those stories have some lovely ingredients:

- In present day London, an archivist makes a strange discovery that she is quite sure is tied to a story that she had been told as a child.

- After losing her husband early in the Second World War, a young widow leaves London to raise her children in the country.

-Between the wars, a biographer visits Birchwood Manor to research a book about about Edward Radcliffe, his circle and the events of the summer of 1862.

-Years before that, the house had been turned into a school, and one girl was desperately unhappy when her parents went away and left her there.

The book moves between all of those stories, sometimes staying with one for a long time and sometimes staying for a very short while. It might have been confusing, but somehow it wasn’t. It felt quite natural, and I liked all of the stories; some more than others, but I was always interested and I was always curious to know what might happen, and how all of the different strands would be tied together in the end.

There is one more story at the centre of the book; and you might say that it is the story around which all the others spin. This story is the richest, in colour, in character, in history, and in drama. It is the life story of the clockmaker’s daughter, who it seems will always be tied to Birchwood Manor.

The book as a whole – the picture that all its stories paint – is beautifully and thoughtfully wrought. I think of painting pictures because I was very taken with the way that the author started each story simply and gradually introduced more details so that the characters and their lives became utterly real. I might have known them, or known of them, had I lived in the right age.

I would have loved to visit Birchwood Manor. There wasn’t a great deal of description, and that left room to imagine. The house lived and breathed, and it was easy to understand why it drew in different people over the years.

I particularly appreciated that the theme of loss, how we deal with it and how it affects us, is threaded though all of these stories. There is a young woman who never knew her wonderfully gifted mother and feels a little overshadowed by her; there is a man who lost his brother in the great war and was plagued by survivor’s guilt; there is a girl who loses the childhood home in India that she dearly loved when she was sent ‘home’ to England to be educated; there is ….

The narrators had clearly been carefully chosen, and not only for that thematic link. It allowed some characters to be familiar and some to be rather less knowable, and though I would have liked to have known some of them rather better I did appreciate that the author’s choices were right for the tale that she had to tell and the mystery that had to be unravelled.

I was particularly taken with Edward Radcliffe’s much younger sister. She was bright, she was bookish, and when she inherited her brother’s house she opened a school there.

I loved these words, spoken to her brother’s biographer:

If you are to understand my brother, Mr. Gilbert, you must stop seeing him as a painter and start seeing him as a storyteller. It was his greatest gift. He knew how to communicate, how to make people feel and see and believe …. It is no easy feat to invent a whole world, but Edward could do that. A setting, a narrative, characters who live and breathe – he was able to make the story come to life in somebody’s mind. Have you ever considered the logistics of that, Mr. Gilbert? The transfer of an idea? And, of course, a story is not a single idea; it is thousands of ideas, all working together in concert.

I suspect that catches the author’s own ethos.

Her finished work is less than perfect. Sometimes the writing is a little flat, and a little more editing would have been welcome. But the book works.

When the events of the summer of 1862 were finally explained, that explanation was satisfying and believable; and there was a nice mixture of explanation and possibilities suggested but not pinned down in other plot strands.

And, for me, this was definitely the right book at the right time.
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Elodie (archivist with Stratton, Cadwell & Co) is on a quest in the summer of 2017 as she is compelled to find out more about the historic contents of a satchel linked to Edward Radcliffe and Birchwood Manor. She knows people are hiding the truth and using her archivist skills, sets out to uncover the secret.

Her story is interspersed with the lives of other visitors to Birchwood Manor. Ada who attended Birchwood when it was a school for young ladies, Leonard in 1928 writing his book, Juliet and her family during WWII and Jack on a hunt to find an item that is proving elusive. I loved the emotional theme that weaves through all the visitor’s lives. The suspense of not knowing at the end of Ada’s narration was fabulous. I thought one thing but it was in fact something different!

There’s another important narrative too that brings Pale Joe into the story … and brings the strands together back to that heady summer in 1862.

The structure, tension and suspense the different narratives brings to the story is brilliant.

I loved all the settings. Life as a thief on the streets of Victorian London came alive for me as did time spent in Birchwood Manor, The Swan and the village at different time periods.

Kate Morton’s figurative writing drew me in. For example:

Free-floating anxiety circled the air above her like a mosquito looking to land a sting.

As the clock ticked over past midnight and the new day slid into position .

Folklore, myths and the supernatural all play a part in The Clockmaker’s Daughter giving the story an edge.

I became lost in the world of The Clockmaker’s Daughter as I turned those pages and dipped in and out of time. It’s an atmospheric and absorbing read. Highly recommended.
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Another captivating tale by Kate Morton and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The tale unfolds as it whisks the reader through periods of time into the lives of the occupants of Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames.

Taken from the publishers description of this book: "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."

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a preview copy.
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Wonderful book, captivating and a real 'page turner'.  Centred on a house, the narrative of which is given through the spirit of a young lady who died there.  How she came to her demise is the main plot and involves a string of families, unknowingly linked through the house over the years and various generations.  The background of each family and how they are linked becomes clear gradually over the exquisitely written chapters.  Spellbinding and thoroughly recommended.
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When Elodie discovers a long forgotten satchel at her job as an archivist, she is overcome with curiosity: inside, she finds a Victorian era photo of a mysterious and captivating young woman as well as an infamous Victorian artist's sketchbook. She soon realises that this mystery strikes close to home when she finds a sketch of a very familiar house from her past. A multigenerational story as Elodie's investigation probes the history of the Radcliffe house.

I have been a big fan of Kate Morton for years, having picked up and loved every novel she has written. I was delighted, and immediately drawn in, by the synopsis of The Clockmaker's Daughter, which promised to be another immersive multi-generational mystery. The grand houses at the centre of each Morton book are incredibly nostalgic for readers who have grown up reading classic English novels as well as providing a comforting theme that ties all her publications together. If anything, the house at the centre of this novel took an even bigger role in the narrative than previous Morton novels, with much of the story pinning on Elodie's multigenerational investigation of the history of the house through its previous occupants, all of whom have a special relationship to the house. I loved how Morton goes further in exploring a supernatural aspect to the ties its occupants have had with the house, which was entirely unexpected for me. I really liked this choice; as much as I love all of Kate Morton's books, I must admit that, for me now, many of the stories have blended in together a bit in terms of themes and plot points.  As such, The Clockmaker's Daughter provided a welcome change and definitely broke up any feeling that a reader may have about potential repetition between novels. Nevertheless, I must admit that I did feel this was not her strongest novel, although I did appreciate that this one was so different to some of her others whilst retaining that magical Kate Morton feel.

I have often found Morton's books to feel quite slow at the beginning; while I adore her writing, it can feel long-winded when you are newly introduced to a new cast of characters and a new mystery. However, usually, this is quickly forgotten about, and by the end of the first hundred pages, I am feverishly racing through to find out what happens... Unfortunately, this did not happen here: I never truly got sucked in entirely as I did find The Clockmaker's Daughter a bit choppy. Part of the fault might lie in that I found this one felt more loosely edited and I felt that the narrative would have been stronger if it had been made tighter in some places. Moreover, it took me a while to get absorbed into all the perspectives, as Morton explores each generation through a new lens (or, in some settings, multiple lens). While the power of Morton's writing definitely rang true, it did feel like just when I got attached to a new setting and character, time moved onward to a new cast. I really enjoyed reading about Ada, for example, but her part of the story ended with an abrupt redirect to a new generation, which felt unsatisfying. Alongside this, characters such as Elodie's mother were overshadowed by the central mystery, when I would have loved to learn more about her. 

I am quite sad to only be giving this one a 6.5/10 as she has set the bar really high. I would still recommend everyone to give it a try, particularly if they have enjoyed other novels by Morton. As always with her novels, the writing is incredible and utterly compelling (once you get past the first few pages) and builds up to a strong and satisfying ending.
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This is a quintessential Kate Morton book.  The story sweeps along, and the reader is drawn into the lives and loves of the characters.  But it all feels a bit forced.  Her earlier books were like a breath of fresh air, but this just feels a bit formulaic.  It's a good story, and if you want to while away time in a very pleasurable way then this is the book for you.  I just felt it was all a bit half-hearted, and nowhere near as good as Kate Morton's earlier books.
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This book had a wonderful atmosphere. The writing style is lovely and the tone that follows the two characters is intriguing. The descriptions conjure vivid imagery.
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A good read although slightly long, it seems to rush a bit at the end as though the author has got fed up with it.
Can be a bit confusing with the name changes but you soon get who is who. The story itself could be anyone's 
daughter so 'Clockmaker ' is as good as any. Felt a bit cheated at the end as it left many unanswered questions.
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I absolutely loved this book. The voice of Birdie the whole way through was absolutely genius.

Inspired to look more into photography and art, and the concept of light.

Would highly recommend this.
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I have read all Kate Morton's books for a simple reason - I love the way writes. She weaves a beautiful and evocative narrative and she does it effortlessly. 

'The Clockmaker's Daughter' is the tale of a house - Birchwood Manor - and the people connected to it, spanning over 150 years. The story is told from multiple points of view and I partly agree to previous reviews who thought that perhaps on this occasion there are too many characters intertwining and it is difficult to keep track of it all. Having fewer characters would also sort out my second gripe - its length. I really think the book could have done with 100 - 200 fewer pages to keep it focused on the most relevant storylines.

However, nobody can deny that Morton is very skilful in setting an atmospheric universe and in capturing her audience's full attention. 

Thank you to the publisher and Negalley for sending me an e-copy of this book in exchange for an impartial and honest review.
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Plunged into the archivists world of intrigue and treasure hunting, our modern protagonist Eloise winds us through a set of clues that she is drawn to in an extraordinary way. The reader is navigated through this tale of one summer in 1862, and it is pleasingly meandering - an archivist's treasure map.
I found the modern connection to the events of 1862 fascinating, captivating. I was drawn in by the artists and their connection to one another. There are beautiful passages on nostalgia, on time and on memories.
"The word [nostalgia] was terribly maligned. People used it as a stand in for sentimentality, when it wasn't that at all. Sentimentality was mawkish and cloying, where nostalgia was acute and aching. It described yearning of the most profound kind: an awareness that time's passage could not be stopped ... ".
I found the intriguing ghostly voice of our narrator Birdie Bell the Clockmaker's daughter, to be sad, longing. The different perspectives between voices leads us through many avenues to the heart of the mystery.
I thoroughly enjoyed a story filled with depth and colour, the beautiful prose making it hard to put this book down.
Thank you to the author Kate Morton and I look forward to more new stories in the future.
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Ah, Kate Morton. I have a theory that in order to write good books, she needs to write not so good ones every so often. The Distant Hours is an example of one of those, and unfortunately, so is this one. 

The idea is great. An archivist uncovers a satchel and becomes hooked on uncovering its secrets; I'd definitely read a book based on that. However, the execution wasn't so good. To be honest,the book felt like a mismatch of ideas she'd had that she couldn't quite work up into a full novel. The modern-day section felt totally distinct from the 1862 section when it should have been intertwined. Elodie felt quite flat as a character, as though she only existed to further others' storylines. This definitely shouldn't be the case for the ostensible main character. 

There were also too many storylines and half-hearted attempts to bring characters to life. There was what was clearly meant to be an 'a-ha!' moment near the end of the book, but I'd got so lost in the maze of sub-plots and rooftops that I had to frantically flick back to try and work out what was going on. Not easy on a Kindle, I can tell you. Elodie's backstory needed some serious tidying up; I'm still puzzled as to why Morton had her as engaged. It seemed unnecessary and complicated to my eyes. If it was to create some kind of impetus for investigation, surely her whole 'Mother' plotline would have sufficed? 

The ending too seemed to be rather vague and rushed. A crime equivalent of living happily ever after, in my opinion. After 592 pages of novel, this is quite a cop-out and not Morton's usual style. I wondered at times if she'd had a case of Writer's Block and just wanted to get this over and done with, such was the gracelessness of the writing at the end. It was also poorly researched. Morton has a character called Leonard spend time researching at the University of York library in 1928. Yet the University of York didn't exist until 1963; that really jarred me out of the story. 

There were good bits; Morton remains adept at locations, and I quite wanted to go to this idyllic cottage in Berkshire. Some of the ideas behind the plot were good, but there were too many of them and they were not thought through. 

Would I recommend it?

Not really. Read Kate Morton's other books if you want some picturesque female-centric drama. This one was not her best.
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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.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/
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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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