Kate Morton is one of my favourite authors and The Forgotten Garden is one of my all-time favourite books, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of The Clockmaker's Daughter. I really enjoyed the story but wavered between giving it four stars or five stars. However, it was the ending that made me finally settle on four. It's hard to explain, without giving away spoilers, but I was hoping for a kind of Spielberg/Disney fantasy ending (with all the characters' talk of time and space). But as this is a historical and NOT a fantasy, I obviously didn't get one!
The story is in the main part is about a Victorian woman called Birdie, who overcomes her Oliver Twist style background (thieving and picking pockets) and falls in love with an upcoming artist named Edward Radcliffe, before tragedy strikes at a house party in 1862. A woman is murdered, Edward leaves England never to return, and the priceless Radcliffe diamond is lost forever. In the present day Elodie, who works in an archive, finds Edward's satchel and sketchbook, with drawings of a house she thought only existed in a children's fairy story, and is determined to solve the mystery.
I had thought The Clockmaker's Daughter would switch between Birdie and Elodie's viewpoints, like an Eve Chase or Lulu Taylor novel, but instead it told the story of everyone who had lived in Edward's Elizabethan manor house (Birchwood Manor) up until the present day. The only connection between each of these characters is the house and the fact that they have all lost someone - either through a tragic death or removal by distance. It reminded me of The Suffolk Trilogy by Norah Lofts. And this was another reason the rating dropped to a four: I'd rather have read about Birdie, who was a fabulous creation, and Elodie, who kind of disappeared beneath the weight of all these other characters - some of whom I didn't feel added anything to the story. Having said that, I did love how we discovered the ways all the characters were ultimately connected - Elodie's Great-Uncle Tip, for example.
I always love stories about old houses and I loved the mystery of what happened that night in 1862; to Edward and Birdie, the necklace and the painting. I loved the stories of Pale Joe and Ada - she was my favourite character! I think it could have done with being shorter (it's almost 600 pages) and have less characters. Having said that, I was completely gripped and read it very quickly! I really enjoyed the way the stories wrapped around each other and I'm happy to give it a solid four stars. If you're not hung up on ghosts deserving their happy ending along with everyone else, you might want to give it five!
The Clockmaker's Daughter is out in the UK on the 20th of September 2018.
Thank you to Kate Morton and Mantle (Pan Macmillan) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.