The Dark Unwinding

Kaley Goerlich

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1852 England

About the Author Sharon Cameron

Sharon Cameron was awarded with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator's Sue Alexander Award for Most Promising New Work for The Dark Unwinding, which is her debut novel.


"Warm sun and robin's-eggs skies were inappropriate conditions sending one's uncle to a lunatic asylum. "

Katherine is sent by her evil Aunt Alice to her wealthy Uncle Tully's estate called Stranwyne Keep. Her aunt is worried that Stranwyne Keep is being poorly managed Uncle Tully, who she believes is incapable of running his estate. In reality, Uncle Tully has a form of autism, but by Victorian standards, he is insane.

“She was the clock, a clock that had lost its key, unwinding in the dark.”

Upon arriving at Stranwyne Keep, Katherine discovers what a genius her uncle really is. He is a brilliant inventor who makes automatons out of clockwork parts. However, this puts his estate into major debt along with his refuge of men, women, and children from the workhouses of London. Katherine loves her Uncle Tully, but struggles internally as she cannot decide whether or not to protect her uncle or tell the truth to her Aunt Alice.

“I knew full well that Lane considered himself more family than servant to my uncle, and that my uncle felt the same; the only real question was who considered himself the father and who the child.”

Lane is Uncle Tully's apprentice, whom Katherine falls in love with. Katherine admires the way Lane takes care of her uncle and cannot ignore her love for him. Her unavoidable feelings for Lane makes her decisions even harder.

Main Conflict

The main conflict is between Katherine and herself. She is unsure whether or not to report her uncle's condition back to her aunt, or to defend her uncle. As a result of her uncertainty, Katherine delays her return so she can observe the workings of Uncle Tully's estate.

Most Important Point

As tensions rise, those who watch after Uncle Tully ask Katherine to lie to Aunt Alice, which makes her very uncomfortable. Katherine's hesitance to lie to her aunt cause the villagers and Uncle Tully's staff to become hostile towards her. On top of this, Katherine is not even sure she can trust herself as she begins to sleepwalk and have memory loss.


In the end, Katherine defends her Uncle and becomes the proper heir of his wealth and as well as his estate.

Interesting Details

The fact that Uncle Tully had autism was an interesting detail. During this Victorian era, people were not yet educated about autism and thought he was insane.

The use of automatons was an interesting detail because I had never heard of them before reading the book. An automaton is a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being.

Katherine's sleepwalking and memory loss is another interesting detail because it adds danger and mystery to the plot.

Uncle Tully's Automatons

CBS Sunday Morning - Lost art of Automatons alive again

Historical Reference

Uncle Tully's Stranwyne Keep was inspired by England's Welbeck Abbey, where the reclusive fifth Duke of Portland built a mile-long tunnel for his carriage and a vast ballroom and library that were both completely underground. Just like Uncle Tully, the Duke's massive building projects depleted his family fortune, while at the same time providing food, shelter, and work for men that might've otherwise died in poverty with their families.
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Book Review

I give The Dark Unwinding 3 out of 5 starts. I thought the book was good, but it could've been better. The book was lengthy and the plot seemed monotonous. However, it was a suspenseful and mysterious novel and I did not think it was a bad book.