You pick some books either because the fancy cover catches your eye or because you find the title intriguing. For me, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street exhibited both these characteristics; not only was the three dimensional book cover eye catching but the title was quite intriguing too. And I am happy I chose this book because it was one of the warmest reads of the recent times.
In the year 1883, in the thick of the Irish War of Independence, Thaniel Steepleton, a telegraphist, returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the same watch saves his life by setting off an ear-piercing alarm that draws him away from the blast that destroys Scotland Yard. Realizing it was not an ordinary timepiece, Thaniel goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, an old but kind immigrant from Japan who stays in the Show Village.
Scotland Yard suspects Mori of being the brain behind the bombings. On Scotland Yard’s insistence, Thaniel rents a room in Mori’s house to dig more about him. But very soon he comes to realize that there is more to Mori than meets the eye. Mori is a clairvoyant who can predict certain future events, but he is not a wicked person. Mori, considers himself Thaniel’s friend and guardian, and tries to protect his ward as best as he can, though Thaniel doesn’t always understand Mori’s intentions.
Thaniel meets Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist and decides to marry her, though he knows Mori and Grace don’t like each other. But then certain events unfold which make Thaniel realize who he wants to spend his entire life with.
It is a very unusual book. Set in Victorian London, it takes us on a nostalgic walk through the cobbled streets of London, Victoria station, the West Minister Abbey, the filthy banks of the Thames and the up-market Belgravia. It also gives us a satisfying peek into Japan and how its civil war affects its aristocracy and traditions.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street has many heroes for me. Obviously, Mori outshines them all, with his kindness, his stoicism and his loyalty above all. He is an interesting character as he lives in the heart of London, talks in an almost faultles English accent and has his hair dyed so he doesn’t stand out too much in the crowd. On the other hand, Thaniel is a simple person from Edinburgh who gets drawn in by people’s kindness. However, he makes a just decision at the end of the story.
Grace Carrow might come out as the villain in the story, but she is driven by hurt and jealousy, and might be excused. She is a feminist of her day and age without her knowing about it; she is intelligent and bold. She defies all customs and traditions and walks about in men’s clothes so as not to be stopped in gentlemen’s gatherings. She is also obstinate – she plans to spend the night with Thaniel walking on the streets of London, so that she would be disgraced and forced to marry Thaniel. Though Matsumoto, Grace’s friend from Oxford, has a short role in the story, it is quite an important one.
This book appealed to me on various levels. It’s a story about friendship between Mori and Thaniel and between Grace and Matsumoto. It’s also a love story which you will realize at the end (no, it’s not a spoiler). Mori’s clairvoyance and his clever if strange watchmaking make you feel as if you are reading a fantasy. There are times when you get confused between the flitting from real to fantasy and back, but they are far and few in between. Also, I found the end to be too fortunate, but the romantic in me appreciated the happy ending (again not a spoiler).
This book has several colors – while I was reading it, I passed the narrow black streets of London, I felt the gray overcast skies, touched the warm oranges and reds from the Chinese lanterns in Filigree Street and saw the golden timepieces and green pears.
The story has all the right ingredients that keep you hooked – bombs, suspense, reality and magic. And so for all the above reasons, Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is not to be missed.
I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!
2. A book written by a Female author
10. A book set in a country that you visited/want to visit
19. A book written by an author who is new to you
23. A book you bought just because of its cover/a book with a beautiful cover