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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

bone clocks

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Published in: 2014
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it/buy it here: The Bone Clocks

I should start off by disclosing that David Mitchell is my author crush and I spent a good 10 minutes just staring at the cover photo before even opening the book. Cloud Atlas is perhaps one of my all time favorite novels and I love how he views his individual books as being parts of a larger work. As a reviewer from the New Yorker so aptly stated, “each of his novels are porcelain babushkas hiding inside Mitchell’s meta-Russian-nesting-doll oeuvre.”

I’ve a had copy of The Bone Clocks sitting on my shelf for many months because I  like to save the books I’m most looking forward to reading for time when I can dedicate as much time and attention to reading them. That time finally arrived when I received an advanced copy of The Slade House (being released Oct 27) which can be considered a companion read to The Bone Clocks. I’ll be posting that review this upcoming tuesday.

Like Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is divided into 6 sections, each told from the perspective of different characters. Unlike Cloud Atlas, the sections move forward in chronological time (for the most part) and all cross paths with the central character, Holly Sykes. The novel starts in 1984 with a 17-year old Holly running away from home after an argument with her mother. Holly may seem like your average, spunky teenager but we quickly learn that Holly has special abilities that separate her from the rest of the pack – she hears and sees things that others can’t. The final chapter takes place in 2043 where we find out Holly’s final fate (kind of). In between, Mitchell takes us on a wild ride of alternating perspectives through the decades with stops in Cambridge, the war in Iraq, ski resorts, and more.

I loved the majority of the book. I was a little underwhelmed by Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet which I had read prior to this novel. The Bone Clocks brought me back to the David Mitchell I love. Mitchell is a genius with character development. He can convincingly write a huge range of characters: men, women, young, old, British, Australian, African, Japanese and more. The stories he spins are incredibly complex and engaging and he can weave in and out of a variety of genres. The Bone Clocks was no exception. Characters are well developed and utterly believable. He draws you in and keeps you drawn in through the end.

Section 5 does get a little wacky and reads like a comic book chapter with a major battle between heroes and villains with superpowers. People who don’t like fantastical elements in their reading will have a hard time with this section. I personally liked it and thought it was a lot of fun. However, consider yourself warned. Here’s  an example of what you’ll get in section 5:

Esther’s soul egresses from Oshima, transversing to one side, pulsing with her evocation of the last Act. Then the grizzled warrior turns, grips the edges of the icon, and holds his head one foot away front he Blind Cathar’s He shuts his physical eyes and pours Deep Stream voltage from his own glowing chakra straight at the black pupil on the icon’s forehead. Oshima cannot win against this incorporeal generator of the Shaded Way, but he might win us a precious extra minute.

I would have given this a 5-star rating had it not been for the section six. To be fair, I really liked the final section in terms of the content. What bothered me about it was that felt somewhat tacked on and almost should have been the start of a new novel rather than a conclusion to this novel.

In sum, I enjoyed this fun house ride of a book. The title is clever, the interconnected stories are interesting, and the writing is superb. This book will be more appealing to those readers who enjoy a mix of genres and who can enjoy deviation from realist traditions. If you want to read more about David Mitchell, check out our featured author section.

First sentence: I FLING OPEN MY BEDROOM CURTAINS, and there’s the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I’m already thinking of Vinny’s chocolaty eyes, shampoo down Vinny’s back, beads of sweat on Vinny’s shoulders, and Vinny’s sly laugh, and by now my heart’s going mental, and God, I wish I was waking up at Vinny’s place in Peacock Street and not in my own stupid bedroom.

Last sentence: For one voyage to begin, another voyage must come to an end, sort of.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Bone Clocks

Have you read this book? What did you think? Have you read other books by Mitchell? Which were your favorites? Least favorites?

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great review. I need to read this book soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 16, 2015
  2. Great review, I can also say Mitchell is an author crush of mine. I was a little underwhelmed by the last part as well, and for me the character development was much more interesting than the battle. I wanted more Holly, less Horology I suppose – but all in all, great book.

    Liked by 2 people

    October 16, 2015
    • That’s how I felt. The battle irritated me. I have nothing against Forces of Good vs Forces of Evil style showdowns, but if you’re going to write one, write it well. It felt to me as though Mitchell could see it inside his own head but couldn’t translate it effectively into words. I didn’t mind the last section, but it was like all the other dystopias written in recent years – the post apocalyptic realm of Maddaddam, Panem in the Hunger Games, Paul Sister’s Country of Last Things. It felt like Mitchell had run out of steam.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 16, 2015
      • I need to keep an eye on predictive text, eh? Poor Paul Auster!


        October 16, 2015
  3. Great honest review! I’ve heard about this book, but did not know what it was about.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 16, 2015
    • I’m not sure whether my review helped clarify the plot too much. Hard to summarize a Mitchell plot. Have you read others by him?

      Liked by 1 person

      October 16, 2015
  4. That section was also my least favorite of the book. I tend to skim completely over apocalyptic battles and pick the narrative back up again when the dust settles. I suspect that I’m not the only one who does this. It’s one of the reasons that I generally prefer books to movies. In the movies they tend to EXPAND the very parts that I find most boring, and they are harder to skim. I mean did the battle scene in The Two Towers really need to be 45 minutes long? No it did not.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 17, 2015
  5. This is one of my favourite ever books. So glad you reviewed it and got across its sense of fun, but also the complete genius that David Mitchell is, to get into so many people’s heads, and into so many different genres. I found his use of language zippy and exhilarating.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2015

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