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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Clockmaker’s Daughter

From the publication of her first novel, The Lake House (2016), Kate Morton has consistently provided her readers with complex characters, clearly defined interlocking plot lines, and denouements that, while delving deeply into human relationships, neatly tie up loose ends, providing satisfying closure. However, unfortunately, with her latest novel, The Clockmaker's Daughter, she has, unfortunately, deviated from these high standards.

While this, Morton’s sixth literary endeavor, starts out as a captivating read, building up momentum with chapters alternating between the past and present, it starts to unravel three-quarters of the way through. In the last quarter, promising a sustaining ending, plot threads are tattered and left unresolved; characters are left dangling in the midst (mists) of their fictional lives. Except for redundant explanations of the final fate of Lily Millington, one of the main protagonists, the reader is left bereft of complete closure.

In the beginning, in September 2017. Elodie Winslow, an archivist for the nebulous London-based Stratton & Caldwell, Co, stumbles across a leather satchel owned by a mid-Nineteenth Century artist, Edward Radcliffe. She is drawn to the familiarity of his detailed sketch in his notebook of a two-gabled house in the Berkshires; a house she has envisaged hearing her mother, now deceased, tell her about. Elodie is distracted from her wedding plans, seeking to learn more about the house and the virtually unknown artist. A conceit that draws us into the crux of Morton’s novel as Elodie sets out to learn about Radcliffe’s life, his work, his friends, and his relationship with Lily – a daughter of a clockmaker – who speaks to us of her own life (“thrice born”) and love in interspacing chapters.

Morton, a native Australian now living in England, delightfully crafts an intriguingly rambling story. Intense in its complexities, ripe with deftly drawn true-to-life characters, sparkling with scenic descriptions and historical references and adorned with relationship nuances. It is, indeed, a veritable book nerd’s mouthwatering smorgasbord. However, it is this overmanaged manage of complexity, with its ambitious attempt to captivate, that is the author’s failure to live up to the reader’s expectations. Simply put: there are one too many characters and two too many plot lines to follow. And, unfortunately, because of this, Morton does not adequately and completely tie up all the loose ends that she has strung out.

I love a complex novel; especially those that Morton, proven by her earlier works, is more than capable of writing. I’ve avidly enjoyed each of her previous novels and, thus, was more than eager to settle in with The Clockmaker’s Daughter. And, yes, I was pleasantly overawed and consumed by it. Ready, as I was, to indulge in – to continue the metaphor – its promise of tasty delights. But, as I infer here, it finally, after all is said and done, left me – as well as several of her main characters – hanging. Wanting more. My appetite still craved answers. What ever happened to Elodie? And Jack? And Alistair, her fiancé? Was the Radcliffe Blue ever recovered? Or did I miss the bauble in trying to decipher the redundancy of the last seventy pages?

All in all, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, is good read. Not a great one; certainly not as finally tuned as it should be. But, still… a decent novel. So, if you’re in any way intrigued by ghosts, life in the 1800s, and already a fan of Kate Morton and her novels, then, by all means… it’s worth a shot and definitely the time spent for overindulgence.

Enjoy the read!

2:49 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,