“My real name, no one remembers. The truth about that summer, no one else knows.” – from our narrator.
This book spans over 150 years, each time period, as it switches back and forth, are pieces of a puzzle.
Present day: We start with Elodie Winslow, a young woman with an old soul. She’s a London archivist, engaged to be married to someone who doesn’t truly suit her.
Looking through an old satchel she discovers a sketchbook which belonged to artist Edward Radcliffe as well as a framed photograph of a striking young woman. Edward’s story is on the book jacket. He buys the impressive Birchwood Manor and invites a group of friends, fellow artists and their models, to spend a month of creativity and enjoyment.
“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.”
That was 150 years ago. We switch to Edward’s time period and learn some of what went on, fractured relationships, love and mystery. Now and then the narrator has her chapters, explaining what she thinks, what she observes. She is the clockmaker’s daughter.
A quote I liked:
“Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and polished for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.”
Besides present day and Edward’s time period, we have characters from the 1940’s right after the war. They all play an intricate part in the story and how it all weaves together in the end. One character is in this time frame is a little boy named Tip. His part here and in the present day are linked as he is Elodie’s great uncle. He has a small part but it’s important.
It’s eluded that the narrator isn’t named, that we never know her name as early on her father refers to her as Birdie. He says she was named for her grandfather. Well, I won’t tell you here even though it doesn’t raise a spoiler, but it’s something revealed on pages 460 – 462 so you won’t want to miss it. By then you are almost finished and I will say, what a story – historically rich with the lines of all eras woven together in a satisfying ending.
Kate Morton never disappoints me. Great story as always.
Linking up with Joy’s Book Blog for British Isles Friday as the setting is London and near rural Lechlade. Birchwood Manor is fictional but befitting many old manor houses in England.