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Publisher: Washington Square Press$14.23The Clockmaker's Daughter (Large Print Library Binding)
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The truth about that summer, no one else knows. 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? 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.
The Clockmaker's Daughter
One of the enduring staples of fiction is the English country house. They are centerpieces of many novels, from Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Kate Morton puts one such house at the center of The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
The house, situated on the River Thames, is Birchwood Manor, with staircases that turn at odd angles and “wall panels with clever concealments.” The house also conceals a secret inhabitant: a ghost who once went by the name Lily Millington and who now spies on guests who periodically drop by.
Lily first came to Birchwood in July 1862, when aspiring artist Edward Radcliffe invited fellow anti-establishment types to the house for a summer of painting. He couldn’t have predicted the fateful night to come, a night that featured “[t]wo unexpected guests. Two long-kept secrets. A gunshot in the dark.” That gunshot took the life of Fanny Brown, Edward’s fiancée.
Cut to 2017, when Elodie Winslow is working as an archivist, caring for the former belongings of Victorian banker James Stratton. One day, she discovers a waxed cardboard box containing a document case belonging to Stratton and a sketchbook of Edward’s. Among the drawings is one of Birchwood Manor.
It turns out that the house has relevance to Elodie’s family. What follows is an intricate tale that involves an 8-year-old girl who grows up in Bombay before her English parents abandon her at Birchwood in 1899; a 1920s historian researching the story of Edward Radcliffe; and a present-day journalist in search of a gem known as the Radcliffe Blue.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is overstuffed with incident, but readers who enjoy a symphony of voices and multiple storylines will find much to like here. Morton builds considerable drama as she unveils the secrets behind Fanny’s death, the gem and more. It’s an imaginative tale for fans of historical fiction.