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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 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. My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows. 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…

Overall Book Review:

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!

Content Analysis:

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.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!