My real name, no one remembers.
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 in rural Berkshire. 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 a 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.
When Elodie, an exhibition curator, investigates an old satchel in 2017, she finds echoes of a childhood story she had been told, in the sketchbook contained within. It causes her to ask more about the life of her mother, a talented musician, who had died when Elodie was a child and she is desperate to find the house seen in the sketchbook.
But Elodie is only one of many men and women whose lives have involved this house by the river and one young woman has never left. It began with the Magenta Brotherhood, a group of artists sharing their creativity in 1862, but what should have been the peak of achievement for Edward Radcliffe turns sour. A precious diamond pendant disappears which others seek for generations and there are tragic consequences. Yet so many are drawn to Birchwood Manor and feel safe there. As Edward said,
“The land does not forget. Place is a doorway through which one steps across time.”
This confusing tale gradually untangles. The mystery is solved and those who have lost someone experience haunting feelings of hiraeth or saudade. The characters threading through this novel back and forth through time are linked by their experiences at Birchwood Manor, but there are so many characters that at times it is difficult to keep hold of the plot. This is Kate Morton’s most ambitious novel, peppered with expression, symbolism and delightful description but it is not my favourite. The reader has to work hard and with so many characters, only Birdy, the clockmaker’s daughter, has a strong identity to earn our loyalty.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter can be purchased at Amazon UK
My Review of The Lake House by Kate Morton