The Clock Winder

The Clock Winder

by Anne Tyler


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"Anne Tyler is a magical writer." —Los Angeles Times

Mrs. Emerson, widowed with seven adult children, lives alone in crumbling Victorian mansion outside Baltimore with only a collection of antique clocks to keep her company. Elizabeth Abbott—twenty-three years old, aimless, bohemian, and beautiful—leads a vagabond lifestyle until she happens upon Mrs. Emerson’s home and convinces the older woman to hire her as a handyman.

When three of the strange, idiosyncratic Emerson children return to their childhood home for a visit, they are irresistibly drawn to Elizabeth. With wondrous observations and bittersweet humor, Tyler shows how this unsuspecting young woman becomes the North star that helps a stumbling, dysfunctional family find its footing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780449911792
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/11/1996
Series: First Ballantine Books Trade Ed Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 455,893
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.64(d)

About the Author

ANNE TYLER is the author of more than twenty novels. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.


Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

October 25, 1941

Place of Birth:

Minneapolis, Minnesota


B.A., Duke University, 1961

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Clock Winder 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
1960s Baltimore. Mr. Emerson had clocks in every room and had a schedule for when to wind them so that they all rang out at the same time. When he died, his widow, Pamela, was at a loss as to how to keep the clocks wound and chiming simultaneously and also how to take care of everything else in her huge house, especially after firing all of her help. Then along came Elizabeth, easygoing, friendly, a klutz, but who suddenly turns into an ace handyman/woman when working for Mrs. Emerson, surprising even herself, and she enjoys it. There are 7 Emerson children, all grown, and two of the boys, Timothy and Matthew, are attracted to Elizabeth and enjoy her company, which leads to tragedy but also, eventually, healing. Nobody does quirky characters like Anne Tyler, and Elizabeth and the Emersons don't disappoint, but it is a lovable and humorous quirkiness. An enjoyable book with memorable characters and situations.
benuathanasia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The characters are portrayed to be "quirky" but instead come off as second rate soap opera stars. The title of the book adds a non-existant air of mystique that was found to be of little relevance to the story; metaphorically or literally. The "climax" of the story is rushed, lacking any true tone of foreclosure, as though the author herself grew as bored writing the book as this reader did of reading it. The ending of the story lacked coherance; suddenly changing to the perspective of a character hardly mentioned throughout the rest of the book.Although in retrospect, it can be admitted that the swarming of cicadas in the final chapter would make a very dramatic scene in a B-rated horror movie; however, they lacked any place in this story except for very modest symbolism, with horrid timing. If they were meant to represent the inner demons of the Emersons (as I suspect they were) then they would have been much better suited in a chapter that has a more direct connection to the problems the Emerson's faced.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The kids have all (finally!) left home for college, so the other day I thought it was time to head down to the downstairs, where their bedrooms were, with a pitchfork and clean the place up some. What a disaster! The only bright spot in my otherwise dreary day was sorting and dusting and rearranging the myriad books down there I had forgotten we owned. It was almost like a high-school reunion with old friends! I found this book, an early one from Anne Tyler that I must have read in the 1970s, and I couldn't remember it, so I started to read it again. It is not my favorite Anne Tyler, but you see evidence of the quirky dialog and strange, drifting characters that were to become her trademark. I guess at one time I must have owned every book Anne Tyler ever wrote, and I've always found them good for another read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anne Tyler shows an unusually refined eye for detail and abijity to convey atmosphere. Clock Winder somehow manages to feel inevitable and random simultaneously. Recommended for anyone who enjoys the mildly offbeat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I personally enjoyed 'The Clock Winder'. It was a little slow, but the characters were real, quirky, and unpredictable. The ending for me, could say many things depending on ones' personal background.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read my way through almost every Anne Tyler book, I was very surprised with the lack of depth and humor as is customary with Ms. Tyler's works. I kept waiting for some huge correlation between the title and plot but found little, if any, to tie them together. Unfortunately this read was a disappointment.