A satchel, a sketchbook, and a photograph connect the lives of a present-day archivist and a mysterious Victorian woman in this sweeping tale told across a century.
Good to know
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.
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.
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?
The Clockmaker's Daughter
Part One: The Satchel
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 ring 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.
Why I love it
I have this condition. I call it “falling-for-a-book-so-hard-I-stay-up-all-night-reading” (can someone please suggest a better name?). I’m always on the hunt for a book that gets me so hooked that I physically can’t put it down. So, bear with me while I sleepily tell you about a book that might just be an insomniac’s dream.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is centered on two lives lived 150 years apart. First there’s Elodie, a 20-something-year-old archivist who discovers a mysterious century-old leather bag. Then there’s the mysterious woman depicted in a portrait found inside. It’s clear that the women are connected—they’ve both suffered the loss or abandonment of a parent, and there’s this old sketch of a house they both seem to know. As the plot thickens, you, reader, are soon grappling not only with the secret identity of the lady in the photograph, but also with a murder and a missing diamond. So, you know, the stakes are high.
Sleep deprivation notwithstanding, this was the perfect book to get lost in. Two strong female characters navigating timeless questions about love, betrayal, and ambition, and a mystery? The gradual unspooling of plot twists is just icing on the cake. I dare you not to love this book as much as I did.
Member ratings (8,713)
Bakersfield , CA
I picked this as my Bookclub pick. I so wanted to throw this book off my balcony through the first half of the book until, my friend told me to pay attention to the way the chapters are numbered. ♥️♥️♥️
The Clockmaker’s Daughter took me a little while to read, but it was worth it. Reading this book was like putting together a mind puzzle—it was all in the details. Nice break from reality. Loved it!
The first part was a bit misleading (I thought there’d be more payoff to Elodie’s story), but the bulk of it was a beautifully interwoven history of a lost gem, a haunted house & a mysterious woman.
It’s a slow build. I thought I had the twist determined pretty early on, but I’m pleased to say that it went a different way I didn’t see coming. The multiple story lines are interwoven beautifuly
Santa Maria, CA
It’s a slow build kind of book and when I first finished it, I thought that I was done with it. Surprisingly, it’s actually one that I keep coming back to and appreciating every little detail of it.