Feb 162017
 

In late Victorian England, a telegraphist discovers a watch in his flat.  The watch is exquisitely expensive but does not open to tell the time for several months until an alarm sounds just minutes before a bomb planted by Irish nationalists would have killed its new owner.  Our shell-shocked clerk hunts up the Japanese immigrant who built the watch and the two enter into a friendship that is cross-cultural, perhaps latently homosexual, but still wrapped beneath Victorian prudence.  Unfortunate for the plot the watchmaker is clairvoyant with an almost unlimited ability to foretell the future.  He can also construct mechanical beasts from clock parts that behave with anthropomorphic emotions and chemical concoctions that control the weather.  Having assembled a leading character with unexplained and unlikely superpowers allows the author to create coincidences and outcomes that are beyond credulity.  Combined with insufficient editing — it isn’t always clear who owns the dialogue — reading to the end becomes extremely laborious.  To my shock this book has been nominated for several prizes.

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