Kate Morton established herself as a premier writer of fiction several years ago with the publication of The House at Riverton.
Unlike other writers, Morton doesn’t turn out a new book on a yearly basis, but when a new one appears, readers agree it’s worth the wait.
Her newest work, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, follows some of Morton’s favorite themes: an old, old house, mysterious presences, story lines from long ago connected and intertwined with today’s world.
Central to The Clockmaker’s Daughter is Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London who discovers a long-forgotten briefcase containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia-toned photograph of a beautiful woman in Victorian clothing and an artist’s sketchbook with a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.
As an archivist, Elodie is familiar with research into the past and putting together the tiniest of clues to identify and reconstruct the past.
Her research into the contents of the briefcase leads her to Birchwood Manor, a home associated with Edward Radcliffe, an artist of the Victorian era and leader of the Mulbery Group known for his love of Lily, a beautiful artist model.
Elodie also learns about Edward’s sister, Lucy, who inherited Birchwood Manor after Edward’s death and who opened a school for young ladies there. There’s also Leonard, a World War I veteran, damaged like so many who saw firsthand the horrors of war and, as a scholar, retreated to Birchwood to heal and write a biography of Edward.
As the years pass, as Elodie comes to know, Birchwood shelters Juliet, a young widowed mother in World War II who finds refuge there with her three young children during the Blitz, and finally there’s Jack Rolands, a private detective from America with a painful past of his own who arrives at Birchwood to search for a lost treasure.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is truly a kaleidoscope of characters, storylines, and eras brilliantly interwoven by Morton into a gripping tale of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love, and loss. And throughout the entire story is Birchwood Manor, which has stood since Elizabethan times and the nearby Thames River which provide the backdrop for the narrator’s voice, that of a young woman who stands outside time and who has watched history unfold, although that same history has forgotten her. She’s Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a demanding book to read. With its multitude of characters, different storylines, and switches in time periods, it requires one’s careful and close attention.
Such readers will agree that it’s another brilliant piece of work and well worth the effort it takes to read.
Stokely Memorial Library now has The Clockmaker’s Daughter, along with Morton’s earlier works.
The library is open Mondays—Saturdays from 10-5 and may be reached by telephone at 423-623-3832.