Book Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

The wind blew and the trees moaned, and thunder rolled down the river to take the house within its clutches; while inside, talk turned to spirits and curses. There was a fire, crackling in the grate, and a candle flame quivered, and in the darkness, in that atmosphere of delicious fear and confession, something else was conjured. Not a ghost, oh, no, not that- the deed when done was entirely human. Two unexpected guests. Too long-kept secrets. A gunshot in the dark.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is an English Gothic work of fiction that follows the many guests of one Birchwood Manor over the course of decades and through the eyes of a uniquely bound narrator we see how love, loss and circumstance bring people to Birchwood— sometimes forever. The story opens in present day where a young archivist named Elodie stumbles upon a satchel filled with peculiar items including the sketch of a house and the most striking photograph of a young woman. Determined to find the origin of these items and how they found their way into the seemingly unrelated estate of her employer, Elodie sets out on a journey though history that uncovers the legendary history of one country house which proves more sinister than anyone would have imagined.

They all have a story, the ones to whom I am drawn. Each one is different from those who came before, but there has been something at the heart of each visit or, a loss that ties them together. I have come to understand that lost leaves a hole in a person and that holds like to be filled. It is the natural order.

Following the variety of characters across time and space, Morton creates an epic tale of family and love that is harmonized by the ever-present nature of the house in its many permutations as well as the bridging viewpoint of our mysterious narrator, who we come to know as the clockmaker’s daughter—though only time will tell how vital she is to the history of Birchwood Manor.

I am remembered as a thief. An imposter. A girl who rose above her station, who was not chaste. And I was all of those things at different times, and more. But there is one thing they accuse me of which is not just. I was not a murderer. I did not fire the gun that day that killed poor Fanny Brown.

Secrets are slowly revealed as each character’s stories are told but it is not until the very end that the truth in its entirety is finally set free. Bound together by threads woven throughout the narratives, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a masterfully written tale of betrayal, romance and the timeless nature of our stories. Equally disturbing and beautiful, Morton shows her mastery of the modern-day Gothic novel as well as her ability to build a intricate and compelling story on the foundation of one historical English manor.

I remember everything. Time no longer binds me; my experience of time is no longer bound. Past, present, and future are one. I can slow memories down. I can experience there events again in a flash. But the months of 1862 are different. They gather speed, no matter what I do to stop them, rolling like a coin let go at the top of a hill, picking up pace as they hurdle towards the end. Edward told me about the Night of the Following, the trees of Hampstead were only the merest of buds. The branches were all but bare and the sky was low and grey; yet, once the tale was told, the summer of Birchwood Manor was already upon us.

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A review copy of this title was provided by Atria Books

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