I do adore Kate Morton’s writing. Ms. Morton’s literary signature always includes a historical house and then an interweaving of characters and time with a surprise twist. In The Clockmaker’s Daughter, her latest novel, the author practically out-does herself. She almost has too many characters to number and she cleverly overlaps and entwines them; traditionally her style has been a one past to one present ratio, but in this novel there is no one-to-one back and forth narrative. Instead, it weaves unpredictably. Some may not care for this style or approach, but I found it kept my interest, which was probably important since I knew from Ms. Morton’s previous works that there would be a twist and I was on guard for it. A side-effect though of so many characters is that the reader really knew most of them only superficially.
Ms. Morton successfully achieved her goal of creating a house that exuded safety and happiness, in spite of the tragedies in the lives of the people that passed through it. In contrast, the book itself was a bit melancholy because all the characters seemed to carry heart-wrenching misfortunes. Edward, in particular, was particularly hard for this reader to bear. Also, of note, is that in this book Ms. Morton left almost all the storylines pending; open-ended would be the wrong word, because she had seeded the story so that the reader could extrapolate the likely conclusions with some confidence. However, if one is a reader that has to have things tied up, then they may find this distressing.
Overall, I think The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a great addition to Ms. Morton’s works. I noticed many readers complaining about the complexity, too many characters, and lack of resolution. I, however, love to see an author stretch and not remain too predictable, and this novel achieved that. If I had issue with anything, it was the major plot point on which much of the story hinged; as a reader I debated whether it was plausible enough to satisfy me. Ultimately, I decided to accept it and just bask in the magic of Ms. Morton’s bittersweet prose!
Profanity/Language: 12 religious exclamations; 5 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name.
Violence/Gore: Report of death of parent; report of death by gunshot during burglary; report of leg injury by cart wheel (leg snapped off); implications that infants that died did not do so by accident; report of workhouse beating & stringing up; report drunk sailor killed a girl; drowning of kittens; report that parent was run down by a carriage; evidence that men had a physical fight (black eye, etc.); accidental drowning of a child; death of a sibling in WWI (1-2 sentences); report/description of events at Dunkirk (brief); report of death of husband/father in war; scary scene (paranormal) causing a character to flee; report of death of a brother in accidental drowning; man punches another; sounds of someone being shot are heard.
Sex/Nudity: References to dalliances, lust; clothes removed for shower (non-descriptive); implication character was “selling her services”; report of lover; affair (2 married individuals); reference to developing breasts and implication girls was going to start attracting men; implied sexual relationship; a character engaged to another has sex with someone else, brief scene (a few sentences, non-descriptive); man tries to engage a woman for sexual services (she declines); character is pregnant before she is married; characters kiss; kiss on the hand; characters find each other attractive and notice things about each other; verbal expressions of love; innuendo; brief scene in which young character comes upon two individuals have sex (minimal details); characters wake up next to each other (implied sex the night before).
Mature Subject Matter:
Death of a family member, murder, child exploitation (force to commit theft, crimes, etc.), bullying, infidelity, extramarital affair, WWI, WWII.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adults smoke; adults drink; an adult smokes opium pipe.