I think it’s safe to say that the reason most of us read is to be taken away from our normal, mundane lives and enter into something extraordinary. We want to be thrilled, enchanted, surprised. We want to experience adventure, mystery, danger, and romance. We want, more than anything, to feel something new, to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. We want to escape.
I felt completely whisked away from Natasha Pulley’s debut novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It was obvious to me the intense care, planning, and research that went into this novel. It’s intricacies and incredible, sweeping sentences will whisk you away to Victorian London and Imperial Japan, placing you smack dab in the middle of history. The blending of real historical events along with fiction is what makes this novel so engrossing, what makes the story seem both grounded and fantastical at the same time. To me, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is the perfect escape.
The story, of course, centers around the namesake Watchmaker, a mysterious Japanese transplant in London named Keita Mori. After a bomb goes off targeting London’s Scotland Yard, Mori’s intricate and complex watchmaking skills – the same watchmaking skills that save unassuming telegraphist Thaniel Steepleton from certain death – make him the prime suspect. Thaniel’s Mori-made watch sounds the alarm that saves his life and, in turn, brings the two together. Despite the fact that he is supposed to be investigating Mori, learning more about him and looking for evidence of his involvement with the bomb, the two form an unlikely and co-dependent friendship. When Thaniel meets Oxford scientist Grace Carrow, their relationship is threatened and Mori’s intentions are thrown into question. The story then becomes a question of fate and time, of mystery and science, of the way lives intertwine with each other and effect events around them.
Ms Pulley’s story is an engrossing ride through time and space, both expansive and intimate, that makes us question the hands of time and fate. It’s an adventurous feat of a novel, a grand undertaking, and with a riotous ending that will leave you dizzy and breathless. It’s still on my mind, still ticking away in my thoughts, and I’m excited for everyone to read it.