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The Clockmaker's Wife by Daisy Wood


I finished The Clockmaker's Wife in two days. I would normally avoid any book titled The ____'s Wife, because it's jumping on a clichéd bandwagon that reduces married women to shadows, but this book featured a mystery plot around Big Ben during the London blitz. There was too much there that was my type of a read for me to ignore. 


When her house is destroyed in a bombing raid Nell Spelman has to leave London with her baby daughter but her husband, Arthur, must stay, because he is one of a small team of experts who keep the clocks running in the Palace of Westminster. Arthur is due to join Nell and baby Alice for Christmas but in a desperate phone call he tells Nell he has been arrested. Leaving Alice with her parents, in a country house filled with refugee children, Nell rushes back to devastated and dangerous London to help her husband.


So, you see, being "the wife" is significant.


She is, in fact, the hero. Naive and tough at the same time. Foolish, maybe. Brave, certainly.


The plot is in two time periods: Nell's story in 1940 and a granddaughter in the present day, also Eleanor but known as Ellie. This adds the mystery element as Ellie asks, just who was Nell Spelman and what did she do? It also adds an interesting level of unknowingness about the characters. Who is the real Arthur Spelman? Is he the  modern, gentle husband adored by Nell or the old-fashioned, stern father remembered by Ellie's mother, Alice? Just how much can you know another person?


The scenes set in 1940 are beautifully evoked and the author takes the everyday horrors and beauties of a London in the process of being destroyed to evocative heights.


This one is a great read for anyone who likes Second World War stories and plucky heroines.