298A: A Clockmaker in Bern

I must have read this some time in the 70s. Not a picture book, I would say this book was middle grade fiction (aimed at 8-12 year-olds). I’m guessing I read it between the ages of 9 and 11. It took place in Bern, Switzerland, and although I think the protagonist may have been a young girl, there was definitely a clockmaker in it, and his shop. I don’t think it had any elements of fantasy in it, but I remember finding it a magical story. I wish I remembered more about it, but that’s about all I’ve got!


9 thoughts on “298A: A Clockmaker in Bern

  1. This probably isn’t it because the story takes place in Germany, not Switzerland, and the main character is a boy, but just in case, I thought I’d suggest The Cuckoo Clock by Mary Stolz. Erich was a foundling, taken in by the Goddhart family as a baby. Frau Goddhart has a reputation for kindness, but sadly, that reputation is really all she has. She is outwardly kind, participating in local charities, only to enhance her reputation. At home, she is selfish and cruel, ruling the house with an iron fist and having tantrums when things don’t go her way. She sees Erich as an unwanted responsibility, only grudgingly raising him along with her own children because if she refused, it would ruin her reputation. Her husband is kind to Erich, but Frau Goddhart treats him more like a servant. Erich only comes to know real love when he becomes Ula’s assistant. Ula is the town clockmaker. Ula teaches Erich his craft and how to play the violin. When Ula dies, leaving Erich his carving tools and his violin, the selfish Frau Goddhart tries to take them away, thinking that such things are too good for a mere foundling, a charity case. Before she can get these precious things, Erich runs away to seek his fortune elsewhere, but he leaves behind something that convinces the town that, although he may be the ungrateful wretch that Frau Goddhart says that he is, he has a talent that will lead him on to greater things.

    • Hi Tracy,
      I was such a Mary Stolz fan at that age, checking out her books from my school library (and despite not being a book hoarder, I still own my childhood copy of “The Noonday Friends”!) So I’m going to order a copy of this book and see if it rings a bell. I was/am pretty sure about the Bern setting– that this book was where I learned that there was a place called Bern, Switzerland– but who knows? Memory does play tricks on us sometimes. Thank you for your reply! –Lisa

  2. i just found a book i read as a child called “Clockwork” by Phillip Pullman..its not based in Bern, but in a “small German town”. It’s a story that is based around clockwork elements (“a prince whose mechanical heart is winding down, an apprentice clockmaker facing failure”). I hope this helps!

  3. I read that book! Unfortunately, I don’t remember the title either. I remember it because I went to Bern about a year later, and I took out the book again to read after I’d been there.

    The girl’s name might have been something like Hilde, or Hildy. I bought the book in a library book sale years later, but I don’t know what happened to it. I think the author might have had three names…something Jane Louise Curry, but I don’t think it was her.

    • Kelly, your post spurred me down an internet rabbit hole again– an approach which hasn’t gotten me any closer in the past, but then I saw this:
      Is this the book *you’re* thinking of? Because I think it might be mine. The synopsis usually printed for it doesn’t mention Bern or a clockmaker, but this one does! And although I don’t remember the mountaineering adventure that seems to be at the center of the story, it wouldn’t have been unlike me to have fixated on a “minor” plot element. My library doesn’t have this book, so I’ve ordered a used copy and am looking forward to reading it! –Lisa

    • The Secret of the Disappearing Sultan, by Margery Warner is (I think) the one I remember reading. I don’t know if it’s the one you remember as well! But if it isn’t, maybe another book by this author is the one?

      Good luck!

        • No clockmaker in Disappearing Sultan. And I can’t say that I felt a lightning bolt of recognition reading My Daughter, Nicola, but… maybe? Perhaps in my memory the story was more fantastical, but it does seem the sort of book I would have liked. It’s easy to imagine reading it as a child and wishing you lived in a Swiss mountain village.

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