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There is so much going on in this book that it’s hard to isolate just a few things I liked. I’ll talk about a couple here, but there are so many great parts in this book.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street sets a touching love story against a historic time of social and political unrest — Irish terrorists are bombing London in protest of British rule; women in England and other parts of the world are dissatisfied with their inability to vote and restricted independence; and Japan’s feudal and agrarian society is fighting a losing battle against the influence of Western culture and technology. After doing a little web surfing, I discovered that a lot of the history relayed in the book is accurate, including the bombings that are central to the story. I find historical fiction much more impressive when it can deliver a mostly-accurate history lesson at the same time it’s entertaining.
Another part of this story I appreciated was the subtle descriptions of what true love really looks like. In one part of the story, Mori encourages Thaniel, who has synesthesia, to draw and paint when he sees when he listens to music. Mori insists on hanging the drawings on the wall, even though Thaniel believes they are worthless. Mori describes Thaniel’s drawings as much more interesting than the paintings he just bought by that depressed Dutchmen (referring to, I’m assuming, Van Gogh).
In another part of the book, when Mori visits Grace and Thaniel’s new home, he is obviously unhappy that the music room is unfinished and there is no piano, though Grace’s laboratory in the basement is completely finished. Later, the reader learns that Mori sees Thaniel as a pianist while Grace sees him as an ordinary man who occasionally plays the piano. This makes a difference to Thaniel and affects his future choices. These are subtle parts of the story, but they say quite a lot about the relationships between the characters.
The narrator, Thomas Judd, did a great job with the voices. As I was listening, I didn’t think there was a lot of obvious variations in voice; but in hindsight, I never had any trouble distinguishing between characters. In particular, Thaniel’s, Mori’s, and Grace’s voices were perfect for their characters.
There is also the sock-stealing clockwork octopus, the cheeky workhouse orphan, the way clairvoyance is imagined, the wide range of diversity in the story, and the scientific cleverness displayed at the end. I can’t say more without giving too much away, but you’ll know what I mean when you read it. :)
This is just a fraction of what is so fascinating about The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. There are layers and layers of personal and social commentary in this book that, though presented in a historical setting, are so appropriate for today’s culture.
Really there isn’t much about this story I didn’t like. I only want to note that it is a slow, quiet story. For some people, slow and quiet stories can be hard to read and even harder to hear. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I found my attention wandering at times. But if you like the slow and quiet story, then give this book a try. It’s pretty impressive.
Copy provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. Review courtesy of One Book Two book review blog.
30 of 31 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
I probably needed to spend more time on this intriguing book. On the plus side, it reminds me a bit of Haruki Murakami’s work. It reminds me as well that, while Murakami makes that blend of magic, science, and self-discovery look easy, it’s actually very difficult to pull off.
In this one, we have a trio of central characters. Thaniel and Grace are Londoners with assorted family issues, and Mori is a master clockmaker (and more) with strange powers for influencing others.
At its best, the book raises striking questions about the nature of time and the capacity for an individual to make choices in a world that may be predetermined. The late touch that calls for a series of coin tosses as a means of escaping apparent predestination is really striking, both as a plot device and as a philosophical idea.
The uncertainty at the heart of those questions is hard-wired into the story, though, and a chief result is that the often out-of-sequence narrative calls for real care in reading it. I don’t mind having to work my way through a book, but this one has an odd habit of seeming to say, “You should have been paying closer attention a chapter ago when things seemed light-hearted or concerned with detail.” As someone reading it quickly, I kept missing those details, and I often found myself bewildered. If I’d realized the book was expecting me to read in such a different fashion, I might have been more taken with its striking irregular rhythms.
On the plus side, this held my interest even as I discovered there were huge parts I’d simply missed. Pulley has a capacity for strong detail to go along with the philosophical questions she raises, so I held on through my frequent confusion to see how it all wraps up.
I have to agree with others who have complained that the start is simply too slow. I’d add as well that I found the conclusion confusing, but that may well be my fault since I allowed my confusion to grow as fully as I did.
Bottom line: there seem to be real virtues here, but don’t underestimate it as you go in. It has the tone of a light read, but it demands your attention throughout. It’s a compliment to compare this to Murakami, but if it has some of the impressive weight of Murakami’s questions, it lacks the powerful lightness that Murakami manages to maintain through so much of what he does.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
It did take me a few chapters to get into it but ultimately I'm glad I persevered. It's good to see other cultures included in a fantasy novel particularly one set in London. The characters turn out to be quite unlike any I've encountered before and if you are able to predict the story arc then you clearly have special powers!
I don't like things too steampunky but this was fine - no airships. Huzzah!
I like Thomas Judd's narration. His range of accents is good and he has a gentle but expressive reading style although a few mispronunciations jarred a bit (I'm ludicrously sensitive and it's really only about 5 words in total)
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
What a lovely gentle book. Not my usual kind of book so the author and narrator were new to me. However I will definitely look out for them again! The characters were well drawn and engaging. The narrator voiced them all beautifully and the story was fairy tail perfect.
29 of 32 people found this review helpful
A truely fascinating story that drew me in. I loved the three major characters who slowly came together and found their place. Partly magical realism and partly love story it will surprise you. The narration was such that it did not distract from the story. I recommend it if you enjoy twisting narratives.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street tells the story of Thaniel, Mori, Grace, and Matsimoto, as their lives frame together. I admit to struggling follow early in the piece, when each character was being introduced but by the end I was in love with them all. No spoilers here but once the story fits together, you will love it too.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is filled with surprises, I enjoyed this much more than I expected and am greatly anticipating the sequel! Absolutely do not stop the clock please.