"An intricate, delicate, or fanciful ornamentation"
This is the dictionary definition of filigree and it sums this book up beautifully. It is indeed a work which is intricate and delicate with fanciful ornamentation and it is a delight to read.
But before I begin extolling the virtues of this novel could I ask you to say its title The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Say it softly and quietly and feel how gentle it is on the lips, how it rolls off the tongue. Now try saying the Watchmaker of Charing Cross or the Watchmaker of Shepherd's Bush and you will hear that it sounds harsh and unpleasant. This thoughtful attention to detail is one of the aspects of this book that make it so rewarding to read.
I will freely admit that when I first read the press release regarding this title I was not sure that this was for me but as it is published by Bloomsbury, who have some simply wonderful titles out this year, I decided to try it and, result, loved it.
It is 1883 and Thaniel Steepleton, a telegraphist a the Home Office returns to his tiny flat on the banks of the Thames after an ordinary working day, he finds a velvet box on his bed, and inside is a pocket watch. At first he thinks it is a birthday present from his sister, but she did not send it and nobody saw who delivered it. The watch will not open and seems to serve no useful purpose until one night when Thaniel is in a pub with a colleague it starts to make a 'horrible keening siren noise'. He rushes outside to see if he can shut it off and at that moment a bomb goes off. If he had remained inside he would have been killed.
Following a trail of clues Thaniel manages to track down the watchmaker in Filigree Street. His name is Keita Mori and he is a kind, lonely Japanese immigrant who sweeps Thaniel into a world of clockwork and music. But though he may appear harmless there is doubt that he is who he says he is and suspicion falls on him in relation to the bombing. Is he the bomb maker?
It is impossible to go into the intricacies of the plot. They are like lacy jewelers' work of scrolls and arabesques and they twist and turn in the light and the air and leave the reader baffled. The entire book is of a filigree lightness but with depth in its characterisation and narrative. I am finding it very difficult to actually put into words just what a delight Natasha Pulley has given us and how enjoyable it is to read so here is a small extract:
"Filigree Street was a medieval row of houses whose upper stories leaned towards each other. At its far end, the gap between the gables became so small that people standing in opposite bedroom windows could have shaken hands.......
'Hello?' called Thaniel into the empty workshop. His voice was spider webbed with cracks....In the light everything around him shone. Across the wall beside him was a tall pendulum clock, its movement regulated by the jointed wings and knees of a golden locust. A mechanical model of the solar system spun in mid-air, floating on magnets, and up two steps in the tiered floor, little bronze birds sat perched on the edge of the desk. One of them hopped onto the microscope and tapped its beak hopefully on the brass fittings. Things glimmered and clicked everywhere.
There was a sign by the door.
Room to let. Ask within"
There. Just a taster. This is a debut novel by Natasha Pulley and I hope that her second will not be too long in the waiting. A gorgous book and beautifully produced as well with a wonderful cover.