It’s no wonder that Kate Morton (The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Atria, Oct.), who travels with aplomb to vastly different time zones between her current London residence and her homeland of Australia, is fascinated by different aspects of time. “There’s something about that transit tunnel,” she says. “It’s quite surreal to step inside one set of airport doors and then in 24 hours emerge on the other side of the world. I never quite get my head around how unbelievable that is. We take it for granted, but that’s pretty amazing.”
Told by multiple voices across time, her latest book, set in 1862 and then the present day, is equal parts love story and murder mystery. In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Oxfordshire. 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, and a priceless heirloom is missing. More than 150 years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a photograph and a sketch that are hauntingly familiar to her.
Throughout the tale, a clockmaker’s daughter offers her perspective from a unique vantage point, which is interwoven with third-person accounts revealing the truth behind the mysterious events that occurred one summer and the secret history of the house. “The novel is definitely fed with obsessions that I have about time,” Morton says, “how we measure it, how we think about it, and what a difference it makes to us—whether it’s the clockmaker actually measuring the minutes, or decisions like Greenwich Mean Time and the prime meridian, or whether it’s archaeological time. My book is set in an area where there are Neolithic remains, as well as Roman roads, and I just love that.”
How the present and the past tie together is a theme in her five previous novels as well, but with The Clockmaker’s Daughter, she says, “I took it a step further, by creating a house on a quiet bend of the upper Thames in Oxfordshire. We have people in the present with the idea that something happened in the Victorian era. We meet a number of different residents within the one house throughout the course of the book. I just love that idea of the overlaying of time within the one place. I wanted to express that sense I get, whenever I visit an old house, of the many different lives that were led within those walls.”