Bestselling novelist Kate Morton has always had a fascination with old houses and their secrets. Her stunning Instagram account is full of haunting images of beautiful historic homes, and scenes of the breathtaking English countryside. Her photographs whisper secrets of a time long ago.
Birchwood Manor is the home that features in Morton’s latest ghost story, The Clockmaker’s Daughter. It is a tale told by Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter, an unreliable narrator set in Victorian England.
In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. A beautiful young model, known as Lily, is one of the guests. Abandoned as a child, her life has been full of difficulties, and she has had to learn to fend for herself.
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 the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.
She recognises the woman in the photograph, and it sparks a yearning for her to discover more. On the brink of marriage, with a mother in law to be who insists on including her long dead mother, a brilliant cellist, in the wedding proceedings by using recordings of her music, Elodie finds herself searching for something in her past.
Morton weaves numerous characters through different timelines in this gothic mystery, full of secrets and lies. Childhood abandonment is a central theme, one that informs both female characters, Lily and Elodie.
The book is full of detailed descriptions of time and place: glorious settings that are brought to life through Morton’s vivid use of language. It is a captivating read, one to enjoy over the Christmas break.
By Sophia WhitfieldOn September 10, 2012
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