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The clockmaker's daughter : a novel
2018
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We came to Birchwood Manor because Edward said that it was haunted. It wasn't, not then, but it's a dull man who lets truth stand in the way of a good story, and Edward was never that. His passion, his blinding faith in whatever he professed, was one of the things I fell in love with. He had the preacher's zeal, a way of expressing opinions that minted them into gleaming currency. A habit of drawing people to him, of firing in them enthusiasms they hadn't known were theirs, making all but himself and his convictions fade. But Edward was no preacher. I remember him. I remember everything. -- The glass-roofed studio in his mother's London garden, the smell of freshly mixed paint, the scratch of bristle on canvas as his gaze swept my skin. My nerves that day were prickles. I was eager to impress, to make him think me something I was not, as his eyes traced my length and Mrs. Mack's entreaty circled in my head: "Your mother was a proper lady, your people were grand folk, and don't you go forgetting it. Play your cards right and all our birds might just come home to roost." And so I sat up straighter on the rosewood chair that first day in the whitewashed room behind the tangle of blushing sweet peas. His littlest sister brought me tea, and cake when I was hungry. His mother, too, came down the narrow path to watch him work. She adored her son. In him she glimpsed the family's hopes fulfilled. Distinguished member of the Royal Academy, engaged to a lady of some means, father soon to a clutch of brown-eyed heirs. Not for him the likes of me. -- His mother blamed herself for what came next, but she'd have more easily halted day from meeting night than keep us apart. He called me his muse, his destiny. He said that he had known at once, when he saw me through the hazy gaslight of the theater foyer on Drury Lane. I was his muse, his destiny. And he was mine. It was long ago; it was yesterday. Oh, I remember love. -- This corner, halfway up the main flight of stairs, is my favorite. It is a strange house, built to be purposely confusing. Staircases that turn at unusual angles, all knees and elbows and uneven treads; windows that do not line up no matter how one squints at them; floorboards and wall panels with clever concealments. In this corner, there's a warmth, almost unnatural. We all noticed it when first we came, and over the early summer weeks we took our turns in guessing at its cause. The reason took me some time to discover, but at last I learned the truth. I know this place as I know my own name. -- It was not the house itself but the light that Edward used to tempt the others. On a clear day, from the attic windows, one can see over the river Thames and all the way to the  distant mountains. Ribbons of mauve and green, crags of chalk that stagger towards the clouds, and warm air that lends the whole an iridescence. This was the proposal that he made: an entire summer month of paint and poetry and picnics, of stories and science and invention. Of light, heaven-sent. Away from London, away from prying eyes. Little wonder that the others accepted with alacrity. Edward could make the very devil pray, if such were his desire. Only to me did he confess his other reason for coming here. For although the lure of the light was real enough, Edward had a secret. -- We came on foot from the railway station. July, and the day was perfect. A breeze picked at my skirt hem. Someone had brought sandwiches and we ate them as we walked. What a sight we must have made--men with loosened neckties, women with their long hair free. Laughter, teasing, sport. Such a grand beginning! I remember the sound of a stream close by and a wood pigeon calling overhead. A man leading a horse, a wagon with a young boy sitting atop straw bales, the smell of freshcut grass-- Oh, how I miss that smell! A clutch of fat country geese regarded us beadily when we reached the river before honking bravelonce we had passed. All was light, but it did not last for long. You knew that already, though, for there would be no story to tell if the warmth had lasted. No one is interested in quiet, happy summers that end as they begin. Edward taught me that. -- The isolation played its part, this house, stranded on the riverbank like a great inland ship. The weather, too; the blazing hot days, one after the other, and then the summer storm that night, which forced us all indoors. The winds blew and the trees moaned, and thunder rolled down the river to take the house within its clutches; while inside, talk turned to spirits and enchantments. There was a fire, crackling in the grate, and the candle flames quivered, and in the darkness, in that atmosphere of delicious fear and confession, something ill was conjured. Not a ghost, oh, no, not that--the deed when done was entirely human. Two unexpected guests. Two long-kept secrets. A gunshot in the dark. -- The light went out and everything was black. Summer was curdled. The first keen leaves began their fall, turning to rot in the puddles beneath the thinning hedgerows, and Edward, who loved this house, began to stalk its corridors, entrapped. At last, he could stand it no longer. He packed his things to leave and I could not make him stop. The others followed, as they always did. And I? I had no choice; I stayed behind. Excerpted from The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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  Publishers Weekly Review

Morton (The Lake House) explores the tangled history of people and place in her outstanding, bittersweet sixth novel. In contemporary London, Elodie, a young archivist, encounters among her employer's collection a satchel, a photographic portrait, and a sketch of a country house. The sketch, in particular, arouses Elodie's professional curiosity and her memories, since it bears close resemblance to a house figuring heavily in the magical stories her late mother once told her. The trail of Elodie's research-spurred by her discovery that the sketch depicts an actual place-is woven together with tales of the house's various denizens between 1862 and the present, as well as with the voice of a spirit who haunts its walls. This specter-who remains nameless for most of the novel-is the clock maker's daughter of the title, abandoned as a young girl, trained as a pickpocket, and eventually chosen as an artist's muse, but possessing an artist's eye of her own. The novel's central mystery focuses on the circumstances of her abrupt disappearance in the 19th century, entangled with the abduction of a priceless jewel, the murder of the artist's fiancée, and the artist's personal and professional collapse. At the novel's emotional core, however, is the intersection of lives across decades, united, as the ethereal narrator suggests, by a shared experience of "loss that ties them together." In addition to love-not only romantic love but also love between parents and siblings-and loss, the stories, brilliantly told by Morton, offer musings on art, betrayal, and the ways in which real lives and real places can evolve over time into the stuff of legends. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House --the story of a love affair and a mysterious murder that cast their shadow across generations, set in England from the 1860s until the present day. <br> <br> My real name, no one remembers.<br> The truth about that summer, no one else knows. <br> <br> 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. 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.<br> <br> 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.<br> <br> 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?<br> <br> 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 .
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