Nell and Arthur Spelman and their wee daughter Alice are living in London in 1940. With the blitz hitting too close to home, Nell and Alice go to live with her parents in the country. But, Arthur's job is too important for him to leave - he is a clockmaker who keeps the iconic Big Ben chiming.
Fast forward to present day America. Ellie finds a beautiful but broken watch in her mother Alice's belongings. It once belonged to - yes, you guessed it - Alice's mother Nell. Ellie knows nothing of her grandparents and her mother doesn't have much to offer her either. Ellie is determined to find her history for both herself and her mother. But what she finds isn't what she expected.
I love stories like this that go back and forth from past to present. I was initially caught up short when a crucial piece of Nell's life is presented very early on. But once I discovered this bit, I realized it wasn't a spoiler, and instead I became very curious.
I loved the 'past' chapters so much - characters that 'just got on with it', the sense of community, camaraderie and stalwartness. Wood did an admirable job creating wonderful characters that I easily engaged with. The settings were just as well drawn to with detailed descriptions that created vivid mental pictures. I loved Nell - and her love for Arthur. Nell's got gumption, smarts and a strong sense of duty to her country. The supporting cast is just as well drawn.
Ellie in present day was just as engaging. She's curious, kind and determined as well. I enjoyed the romantic thread woven into this narrative. What Ellie finds in Britain isn't what she had expected. She continues to search for bits of Nell's life even as the reader become privy to what happened to Nell in the past. The lead up to the final answer is action filled. The ending to the present day thread is perfect. Of the two timelines, I have to say I was drawn more to the war years.
The Clockmaker's Wife was a wonderful read and I recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Clockmaker's Wife.