The Clockmaker’s Daughter
It is difficult to categorise the new novel by Kate Morton, author of The House at Riverton and The Distant Hours. There is a ghost haunting Birchwood Manor, but this is not a haunted house story as such. There is a missing diamond, but this is not a crime novel. Indeed, the solutions to all of the mysteries around secret identities, unknown or missing parents and stolen jewels are fairly predictable. In the present day there is a young woman who is about to get married, but her story is background to the stories of the past, all relating or leading in some way to Birchwood Manor. The most interesting story revolves around one summer in the life of the Victorian painter Edward Radcliffe, resulting in the tragic death of his fiancée. The blurb describes the novel as “a story of art, love and loss”.
The large number of stories makes the book a little fragmented. It is hard to get emotionally connected to any of the characters, especially the present-day heroine, Elodie. This book is best read as a gentle saga, flowing in and out of various lives. Towards the end of the novel the pace picks up for the enthralling reveal of the titular clockmaker’s daughter’s fate, but this is an exception to the more moderate tempo of the rest of the novel. I wished that the author had omitted some stories to allow more focus on others, but it is possible that other readers, particularly fans of Morton’s other novels revolving around country houses, will prefer the more extensive approach.
A minor quibble, but the “clockmaker’s daughter” of the title is the pickpocket and artist’s model “Lily Millington”. Her father’s occupation is the least-interesting aspect about her, and an odd choice for the title of this book.