The Clockmaker's Daughter
A NoveleBook - 2018
"An ambitious, compelling historical mystery with a fabulous cast of characters...Kate Morton at her very best." —Kristin Hannah
"An elaborate tapestry...Morton doesn't disappoint." —The Washington Post
"Classic English country-house Goth at its finest." —New York Post
In the depths of a 19th-century winter, a little girl is abandoned on the streets of Victorian London. She grows up to become in turn a thief, an artist's muse, and a lover. In the summer of 1862, shortly after her eighteenth birthday, she travels with a group of artists to a beautiful house on a bend of the Upper Thames. Tensions simmer and one hot afternoon a gunshot rings out. A woman is killed, another disappears, and the truth of what happened slips through the cracks of time. It is not until over a century later, when another young woman is drawn to Birchwood Manor, that its secrets are finally revealed.
Told by multiple voices across time, this is an intricately layered, richly atmospheric novel about art and passion, forgiveness and loss, that shows us that sometimes the way forward is through the past.
From the critics
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“Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and polished for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.” - p.60
“Because before Mrs. Mack and the Captain there was my father, always looking for his second chance He was a clockmaker by trade, a master craftsman… ‘Each clock is unique,’ he used to tell me. ‘And just like a person, its face, whether plain or pretty, is but a mask for the intricate mechanism it conceals.” - p.64
‘On Radcliffe’s headstone, in smaller text beneath his name, was written, Here lithe one who sought truth and light and saw beauty in all things, 1842-1882. Leonard found himself staring as he often did at the dash between the dates. Within that lichen-laced mark there lay the entire life of a man: his childhood, his loves, his losses and fears, all reduced to a single chiseled line on a piece of stone in a quiet churchyard at the end of a country lane. “ - p. 230
“If you are to understand my brother…you must stop seeing him as a painter and start seeing him instead as a storyteller. It was his greatest gift. He knew how to communicate, how to make people feel and see and believe. The medium in which he chose to express himself was irrelevant. 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 someone else’s mind. Have you ever considered the logistics of that…? 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.”
“What she said was true. As an artist, Edward Radcliffe could transport people, so that they were no longer simply spectators of his work but participants, coconspirators in the realization of the world that he sought to create.” - pp. 239-40
“Time only moved in one direction. And it didn’t stop. It never stopped moving, not even to let a person think. The only way back was in one’s memories.” - p. 315
“Being a parent’s a breeze… No more difficult than flying a plane with a blindfold on and holes in your wings.” - p. 319
“… Juliet wandered the perimeter observing the mottled headstones and contemplating the names and dates, the loving messages of eternity and rest. How remarkable that the human race valued the lives of its individual members sufficiently to commemorate each ones’s brief time on the ancient earth; and yet, at once, could engage in slaughter of the most meaningless and general kind.” - p. 327
“Past, present, future—what did any of it mean, anyway? One could aim to do their best with the circumstances dealt them in the time given. That was all.” - p. 327
“I wonder what Felix, with his lapel button of Abraham Lincoln and his wild predictions for the future, would make of all this. It is just as he said: the camera is ubiquitous. They all carry one now. Even as I watch, they traipse through the rooms of the house, pointing their devices at this chair or those tiles. Experiencing the world at one remove, through the windows of their phones, making images for later so that they do not need to bother seeing or feeling things now.” - p. 338
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