The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
According to Goodreads, this book 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…” of course, the woman is refers to is the titular Clockmaker’s Daughter. However, her voice is hardly the only one we hear in this book, and the many other voices spread across time, beginning in the mid-1800s through the 21st century.
This is actually the first Morton I’ve read, even though I know we have one or two of her novels on our shelves; I’ve simply never gotten around to reading any of them. This is obviously a hole in my literary education, because what I found here was quite unexpected on several levels.
To begin with, I had no idea that Morton’s writing style was such that I would find the prose totally riveting, luscious, and appealing, while also being deceptively simple. This type of artistry is exactly what I love to find in these types of novels, particularly ones that are as epic as this one. To my mind, this is the type of writing that seems to lend itself especially well to the historical fiction genre. Of course, not every writer can achieve this level of allure in their writing, so I’m sorry I never read Morton before.
I was also surprised about how little the inclusion of the unrealistic parts of the story bothered me with this novel. Most of my regular readers know that I don’t care much for fantasy books, and while I can handle a bit of magical realism here and there, I don’t generally go in for horror or ghost stories. However, despite finding a ghost early on in this book, once again, I was unwilling to quit reading this book because of the prominence of an apparition being a major protagonist here. Once again, Morton’s literary style eclipsed that prejudice in me, and yet again, that kept me reading.
Another surprising element here is how Morton gives us such a wide-ranging cast of characters, not only from across the years, but also within each of the eras where the actions take place. Often something like this can be confusing, and I must admit that there were times when I wasn’t sure who was whom, or where these people fit into the story. In fact, putting the pieces of this puzzle together wasn’t easy at all, and Morton only starts fitting them together for the readers about three-quarters of the way through the book, with the real answers only coming very near the ending. This can be both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, being overly confused might turn off some readers. On the other hand, this increases the mysterious aspects of the plot, and I pride myself in figuring out “who done it” far too early in many books, which is the reason I hardly read mystery novels anymore. In fact, the former is more often the case for me, but if you can keep me guessing about what really happened, then you’ve got me hooked. Of course, add that to such brilliant prose and I’m in seventh heaven.
I should also mention that this is no small work of fiction, as it hovers around 600 pages, which is easily 15-20% longer than most of the books I read. Of course, as already noted, when a book is this well written, we don’t often pay that much attention to the length (and if you’ve got it on your eReader instead of holding it in your hands, that makes it all the less daunting to tackle). However, the exceedingly large confluence of characters, and the many eras that this book encompasses, despite their very valuable contributions to the plot, does force me to lower my rating of this book. I can still recommend this book warmly, especially to lovers of historical fiction, people with a good measure of patience, and people who like a good ghost story. I’m not necessarily all of those types of people, so I’m going to give it four out of five stars, almost solely because of the excellent writing.
Atria Books released "The Clockmaker’s Daughter" by Kate Morton in the UK on September 20, 2018. The US release will take place on October 9, 2018. This book is available (for purchase in the UK, and for pre-order in the US) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo eBooks, Kobo audio books, eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook (US), iBook (UK) or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris or Better World Books as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for giving me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley.