Book review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

I picked this after Briony mentioned that she was reading a book about an interferometer when I was tweeting about the success of LISA Pathfinder. She said it was good, I looked on Amazon and discovered the Kindle edition was only £1.99 and I figured I’d give it a try. I probably wouldn’t have read it quite so soon, but I finished the book I was reading (It’s Complicated) on a long train journey and this was the next thing to hand.


The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley


loved it. Ok, it’s a bit of a stretch to say it’s about an interferometer, but there is a character in it who is trying to build one in order to prove the existence of the ether (spoiler alert: ether doesn’t exist but people in the late 1800s when the book is set thought that it carried light waves). Better yet, she’s a woman physicist who,

  1. Dresses as a man in order to access the libraries at Oxford without an escort
  2. Turns the basement of her college into a working laboratory
  3. Attempts to enter into a marriage of convenience in order to inherit the house her aunt bequeathed to her, which her father is withholding because he’s a daft sexist
  4. Is allowed to be a flawed character who makes mistakes, learns from them, but still has to deal with the consequences

I mean, I’m already sold. Then there’s the amazing story, a gay relationship that’s just allowed to naturally form out of an initial friendship, double-crossing evil-doers and a clockwork octopus. Sci-fi themes, steampunk themes, very British jolly-good-cup-of-tea themes, synesthesia, clever orphans, terrorists trying to blow people up, and on and on. I loved it and I want to read everything else that Natasha Pulley writes.

Most of all, though, I want a clockwork octopus.


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