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Library Journal Review
The discovery of a misplaced satchel containing a sketchbook and a Victorian-era photograph of a young woman intrigues Elodie Winslow, archivist at the London-based Stratton, Cadwell, & Co. One of the drawings of a country house viscerally takes Elodie by surprise. It's a perfect illustration of a place from a childhood fairy tale told to her by her long-deceased mother. Precise, disciplined Elodie feels compelled to break the archive's rules by taking the photo and the sketch with her to discover their secrets. Her quest to find the house and the identity of the beautiful woman as well as how this connects to her mother leads her to a group of Victorian artists and a series of tragedies on a summer's afternoon with the house bearing witness to it all. International best-selling author Morton's (The Lake House) sumptuous tale of love, loss, heartache, and hope skillfully intertwines the contemporary, historical, and phantasmagorical to create a Dickensian tale filled with lavish imagery and richly emotional characters who come alive from one generation to the next. VERDICT For fans of intricate, gothic, atmospheric novels reminiscent of Sarah Waters or Diane Setterfield. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/18.]-Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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.
School Library Journal Review
Although Lily Millington, the titular character of this novel, is a smart and compassionate ghost, she's unreliable: Was she the victim or the perpetrator of a murder that happened one night in 1862 at Birchfield Manor? To escape stuffy London for the summer, Lily and her lover, acclaimed artist Edward Radcliffe, and assorted bohemian youth went to Edward's house in the country. Then his proper Victorian fiancée showed up-and someone died. Another guest was Lucy, Edward's beloved little sister, 13 at the time. A conventional murder mystery might have ended there, with readers believing Lily, but tough, sympathetic Lucy must carry on this epic that spans generations, eras, and wars. Her famous brother, Radcliffe, unable to recover from the tragedy, has disappeared. She grows up, eventually inheriting Birchfield, which, she learns, is over 400 years old, and reinvents it as a school for young girls. That's where readers meet Ada, yet another impressive character, whose accidental proximity to a death repeats the pattern. Whodunit fans will gobble up this work, trying to solve the multiple mysteries. This best-selling Australian author's absorbing saga of family, love, and history has much to offer eager readers. VERDICT A must-have for all collections.-Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The discovery of an old photograph leads London archivist Elodie Winslow to a house from a bedtime story told by her late mother. The house is very real, and very haunted by the ghost of Birdie, a former pickpocket and model for Edward Radcliffe the most underappreciated member of the Magenta Brotherhood, a group of artists of the aesthetic movement who died in drug-addled obscurity after his fiancée was shot and a family jewel stolen. Morton's (The Lake House, 2015) fans will expect the two stories to intersect. But in her most ambitious work yet, she deftly weaves together the stories of Elodie; Birdie; Edward's sister, Lucy; a curious female student at the turn of the century; an academic in the late 1930s; a young family evacuating London during WWII; and a legend about medieval fairies. It sounds like a lot, but with Birchwood Manor, a Tudor-era home with secrets of its own, as the anchor and the missing Radcliffe Blue diamond as the chain, Morton proves once again that history is not a straight line but an intricate, infinite web.--Susan Maguire Copyright 2018 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Morton's interest in houses as repositories of secrets (The House at Riverton, 2008; The Lake House, 2015) reaches full flower in her latest novel.The author's current architectural bellwether is Birchwood Manor, a country house on the Thames. Successive generations have inhabited Birchwood, which was the summer home, briefly, of Victorian artist Edward Radcliffe, member of a Pre-Raphaelite-esque painting cabal. All the people for whom Birchwood holds a special attraction are, in some way, abandoned children. The unifying presence at Birchwood is Lily, whose connection, presumably romantic, with Edward is not immediately revealed. She is also the only permanent tenant, since she is a ghost. Lily spies on the other guests, most recently Jack, a photojournalist, and occasionally meddles. At 5, Lily was consigned to a more genteel version of Fagin's den of thieves by her clockmaker father, who then decamped for America. The characters across different time periods are enmeshed with each other and with Edward and the murky circumstancesincluding a murder and a diamond heistpreceding his death. In 2017, Elodie is an archivist who sees Lily's photo among Edward's effects and experiences a shock of recognition. Elodie's mother, a famous cellist, also died under suspicious circumstances near Birchwood. In 1899, Ada, a young Anglo-Indian, is dropped off at the girls' school that occupied Birchwood for a time, with no explanation by her parents, who then head back to India. Lucy, Edward's sister, inherited the house and founded the school. In 1928, Leonard, a historian still grieving the loss of his brother in the Great War, arrives at Birchwood to research Edward, aided by the now elderly Lucy. Juliet, in 1940, escapes the London Blitz for the shelter of Birchwood. The ratcheting between eras makes sorting the many characters all the more challenging, while the powerful theme of bereft childhood gets lost in an excess of exemplars. Nevertheless, those who appreciate a leisurely and meditative read, with lush settings, meticulous period detail, and slowly unfurling enigmas, will enjoy this book.Overpopulated and overworked. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.