The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell

18th August 2014

This is the first book of David Mitchell’s that I have read. He is an accomplished author, with titles such as ‘Cloud Atlas’, ‘Number 9 Dream’ and ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet’ to his credit, but for some reason I have never had the urge to read any of them. My interest in this one was first piqued I think after seeing the movie adaptation of ‘Cloud Atlas’, which if memory serves wasn’t all that well received by the critics but I quite enjoyed. So when my wife finished reading ‘The Bone Clocks’ and made a series of noises I took to be rather positive I thought it was time, I took the plunge and I am glad I did.
The book charts the life, by a rather circuitous route, of Holly Sykes, a child of a working class family in Thatcher’s Britain. Holly is ‘plagued’ by episodes of precognition and telepathy and possibly suffers from schizophrenia, as evidenced by the voices in her head. What Holly and the reader are not initially aware of is that she is unwittingly at the centre of a 100 year war being waged by the fringes of not only our society but our reality.

The Bone Clocks begins in 1984 and ends in 2043. It is divided into six parts, each part being told by a different character connected in some way to Holly, over a different time period from a couple of days to a couple of years. What I loved about this book, apart from the wonderful writing, were the characters themselves. None of them, including Holly herself, are without fault - in fact some of them are very difficult to like at all, but come to like them you will. Until the fifth part it is unclear as to where the author is taking you, something that usually drives me insane, however in this case the author’s consummate skill makes you enjoy the journey with his cast so much that you don’t really care.

Of course other authors have done this over the years and the inherent danger is always that the ending is unsatisfying, leaving too many loose ends and detracting from any enjoyment of the rest of the book. While I am not sure I really was all that keen on the penultimate section of the book, the final piece in 2043 was a wonderful tie to knot the rest. David Mitchell is an author with a wonderful imagination and the skills to back it up.

As the ‘blurb’ says, this is a ‘Metaphysical thriller, meditation on morality and chronicle of our self-devouring times…’ The Bone Clocks is a fantastic read and one you should dive into!

Jay Lansdown.

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