The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

Random House UK, Transworld| 9 June 2022| e-book, print length 355 pages| Review copy| 4*

Synopsis from Amazon

In 1754, renowned maker of clocks and automata Abel Cloudesley must raise his new-born son Zachary when his wife dies in childbirth.

Growing up amongst the cogs and springs of his father’s workshop, Zachary is intensely curious, ferociously intelligent, unwittingly funny and always honest—perhaps too honest. But when a fateful accident leaves six-year-old Zachary nearly blinded, Abel is convinced that the safest place for his son is in the care of his eccentric Aunt Frances and her menagerie of weird and wonderful animals.

So when a precarious job in Constantinople is offered to him, Abel has no reason to say no. A job presented to him by a politician with dubious intentions, Abel leaves his son, his workshop and London behind. The decision will change the course of his life forever.

Since his accident, Zachary is plagued by visions that reveal the hearts and minds of those around him. A gift at times and a curse at others, it is nonetheless these visions that will help him complete a journey that he was always destined to make—to travel across Europe to Constantinople and find out what happened to his father all those years ago.

With a Dickensian cast of characters that are brilliantly bonkers one moment and poignant the next, Sean Lusk’s debut will take listeners on an immersive journey into the wonders of the world of Zachary Cloudesley.

I’ve enjoyed novels about clockwork and automata inventions before, so I was hoping Sean Lusk’s debut novel, The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley would be just as enjoyable – and it is. It’s a mixture of historical fact and fantasy set in the 18th century, in London and in Constantinople.

It follows the events in Zachary’s life from his birth in London, brought up two strong-minded women, surrounded by the clocks and clockwork automata in his father’s workshop, to his teenage years, when he travelled to Constantinople in search of his father, Abel. Zachary, an intelligent and gifted child, who had visions of future events, had an unusual most unusual life – as indeed, did Abel.

For me this book was as much about Abel as about Zachary and I loved the rich descriptions and all the detail that Lusk packed into his book. It did slow the action down at times, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all. The characters are fabulous, the settings are beautifully described and the historical background is fascinating.

Lusk begins his book with an extensive note about Ottoman heirachy in the mid eighteenth century and ends it with a section of Historical and Other Notes explaining that his inspiration to write his novel came when he discovered an eighteenth century Ottoman clock made in England, in a shop in Istanbul. He finally produced his book after several years of research into clockmaking, Anglo-Ottoman relations and other 18th century matters, and having spent numerous hours in the British Library. He also includes a list of books for further reading. It is a remarkable book on a grand scale that entertained me enormously. I’m looking forward to reading more books by Sean Lusk.

About Sean Lusk

Sean Lusk is an award-winning short story writer, winner of the Manchester Fiction Prize, the Fish Short Story Prize and runner-up in the Bridport and Tom-Gallon Trust prizes. He has lived in Greece, Pakistan and Egypt, working variously as a gardener, speechwriter and diplomatic official. He now lives near Forres on the Moray Firth. The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley is his debut novel.

My thanks to Random House, UK for a review copy via NetGalley.

7 thoughts on “The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

  1. That’s a really interesting premise for a story, Margaret. And I do like a historical novel that teaches me something about the times in which it takes place (no pun intended!). Zach and Abel sound like interesting characters, too, and I’m glad you enjoyed this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed this as well, particularly the first half set in London which reminded me of Dickens. I did expect Zachary’s ‘second sight’ to play a bigger part in the story than it actually did, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is a book of two halves and as you say the first half does have a Dickensian feel, but I enjoyed the second part too for all the detail of the setting in Constantinople in the Sultan’s palace. I also expected Zachary’s ‘second sight’ would play a bigger part in the story.

      Like

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