Daily Gazette, The (Schenectady, NY) - Monday, April 9, 2012
"The Clockwork Three" by Matthew J. Kirby is a very well-written book that shows life in the cities in New England during the late 1800s by using pertinent characters in a fictional plot.
The three main characters are Hannah, Frederick, and Giuseppe. Hanna is a maid at a hotel who is trying to take care of her poor family alone since her once-employed father had a stroke. Frederick is an orphan clockwork apprentice who wants to build the greatest clockwork man in history. Giuseppe is an orphaned Italian child who had come to America in search of a better life. But instead has found himself wishing he could go back to his homeland after working for a barbarous padrone as a street musician.
While living with their hardships, Hanna finds out about a hidden treasure that can pay for her father's medicines. Frederick discovers the legendary Magnus clockwork head that can be part of his own ingenious clockwork body, and Giuseppe comes across a rare green violin that plays beautiful music which could cause him to earn more money for his aspirational trip. When the children are later gathered together by eccentric occurrences, they realize that their lives "interlock like the turning gears of a clock" and that each child "holds the key to the others' puzzles."
"The Clockwork Three" was an absolutely enjoyable read. Even the title of the book is favorable since it doesn't give away the story much like other books do. For example, "The Meanest Doll in the World" by Ann M. Martin is obviously about a hostile doll, but "The Clockwork Three" just gives a hint that the story is about clockwork .
Although the book is a bit about clockwork , the clever title goes along very well with the story since it goes deeper by explaining more about the connections between the lives of the three children. Their lives "interlock like the turning gears of a clock." This book also flows very well since events that happen make sense according to what has happened before, like when the author says, "Each one holds the key to the others' puzzles." This is true because the children go through many adventures before each child makes the others have what they had always wanted (which are not necessarily items, but other means of happiness too).
These happenings are, of course, more elaborated in order for the story to flow and make sense. The author also enhanced the setting by making the fictitious story seem very realistic. Kirby exposed the cruelness of padrones in cities in the 19th century by showing how Stephano (a padrone) punished his young laborers. The writer also showed the harsh life of ordinary people in tenements by emphasizing the condition of Hannah's apartment and the poverty that hurt her family economically, emotionally, and physically. "The Clockwork Three" is a remarkable novel that is to be commended.
Even though the story was absolutely spectacular, I thought the epilogue was dull, weak, and incomplete compared to the rest of the book. The epilogue was a bit boring and maybe even pointless because all it did was tell me that Frederick made Hannah a musical automaton which made her father's feet bob to the beat for the second time since his stroke (nothing new). OK, so what? Nothing so extraordinary and new happened, and where is Giuseppe?
The epilogue only shows Frederic and Hannah's "happy endings," but not Giuseppe's ending back in his homeland of Italy. His conclusion is important because he is one of the main characters in the book, and without it the epilogue is not finished. The epilogue of "The Clockwork Three" was a total disappointment compared to the rest of the book.
In the "About the Author" at the end of the book, Matthew J. Kirby says he first got the idea to write "The Clockwork Three" by combing across the newspapers of 1873 that told about a boy named Joseph. Joseph was kidnapped from Italy and brought to New York City to play music on the streets to earn money for his padrone (like Giuseppe). One night, he escaped from his misfortune by retreating to Central Park where he got help from several sympathetic individuals. Joseph later testified against hie padrone in court, which resulted in passing new laws to protect children. Kirby says that Joseph's determination and courage encouraged him to write his first book, "The Clockwork Three."
Kirby did achieve his purpose because I can clearly see the author portraying Joseph's bravery and perseverance in all of the three children in this noteworthy novel. I would definitely recommend "The Clockwork Three" to anyone who loves mystery page turners and adventure.