The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
ABOUT THE BOOK
Published: Sept 2nd, 2014
Genre: Literary Fiction, Science-Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Length: 624 pgs.
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Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.
For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.
A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from occupied Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.
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Generally, I always have one or two more critical comments to make about every book I’ve read but I think the most popular reviews have covered everything I wanted to discuss this time around. Still, here’s a short review anyway…even though it didn’t really turn out to be that short. ;)
One of the biggest criticism made about this book that I’ve seen is that this book is good but not great and I have to agree. I read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas last year and was absolutely blown away by such a complex but beautifully crafted narrative structure and even though it took a lot to get through the book, in the end I strongly felt as if I’d accomplished something. So clearly, I was excited to read The Bone Clocks. It’s a good book and has a similar narrative framework to Cloud Atlas but it leaves a bit more to be desired. One uplifting element I found that made this book easier to get through was that unlike Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks narrows itself down to the life of one girl—Holly Sykes. So instead of having memories scattered all over time and space, it’s really more about the time than anything else (the “bone clocks,” get it?).
We begin in the 1980s, when a fifteen-year-old Holly runs away from home and finds herself lost, forlorn, and heartbroken. After the first narrative, we see Holly’s life progress through other’s perspectives and the people that she meets over the years. We see Holly at fifteen, lost and alone, in her twenties, discovering a new world, married to a man addicted to war in her thirties, in her forties she has become somewhat of a celebrity writing about her psychic abilities, and so on and so forth…It very confusing to explain and at times it’s also very confusing to jump from one point to another but Holly is the one constant that we can hold on to as readers, the one thing that makes sense and at the same time, it often doesn’t.
The Bone Clocks is part historical fiction, part contemporary/literary fiction, part magical realism, part science-ficition, and part dystopian (and possibly a few more other genres). And that, my friends, is what makes this book so exciting for me. Often times, at the beginning of a narrative, I’ll feel put out by the change in perspective at such a crucial point in the story but once we’re in a few more chapters, it becomes difficult to keep myself from flipping the pages.
I have to be honest, I felt very disconnected with Holly at first. I thought she was childish, unrealistic, and often times annoying. But as I see her growing up, she kind of grew on me too. It’s hard to describe her personality in this book because we see her grow from a teenager all the way to a grandmother and the human mind is incapable of having a constant persona during such a vast amount of time so honestly, I don’t know what Holly is like and I don’t know what I like about her. I just found myself sympathetic to her more than once and towards the end of the journey, all I wanted to do was reach out and give her a hug. And I’m not even going to pretend otherwise, my eyes were definitely a bit misty by the end of her story. I couldn’t believe it was done and she was gone and ultimately, it even made me face the harsh mortality of my own life (which, as a survival mechanism, is a topic I’m sure we all avoid ruminating about).
All in all, I enjoyed taking this journey with Holly Sykes. It wasn’t the greatest story I’ve read and I wasn’t as impressed as I was with Cloud Atlas, but I think it’s still a story worth reading. For those of you who haven’t tried anything by David Mitchell yet, I would recommend this as a starter point (even though I’ve yet to read all of his works myself).
This review is also available on BookLikes.