The Bone Clocks

3.6

Run away, one drowsy summer 's morning, with Holly Sykes: wayward teenager, broken-hearted rebel and unwitting pawn in a titanic, hidden conflict.

Over six ecades, the ramifications of a moment 's impulse unfold, drawing an ordinary ma into a world far beyond her imagining. And as life in the ear future turns perilous, the pledge she made to a stranger may become the key to her family 's survival...

Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Series
Number of Pages
613
Original Title of the Book
The Bone Clocks
Publication Date
Published June 18th 2015 by Sceptre (first published September 2nd 2014

Public Commentary

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I read Richard Ford and I read Doris Lessing.

I found his novell to be quite profound in parts, a love letter to family, an eleg to imagination, a dire warning to humanity about the next ifty years.

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I read it based on rave reviews I saw, but found it as close to unreadable as any I 've come across.The first chapter is by far the best of he bestsellin, after that, the write pull off on tangents using language, terms, and ords that were completely foreign to me.The story is all over the place and I was ompletely lost regarding character progression, relationships, and the overall storyline.

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In particular, it is closely tied to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet ( https: //www.goodreads.com/review/show ... I ’ ve read all Mitchell ’ s previous books ( four of them twice): connectedness is the most overarching theme, within and between books.All ( except Black Swan Green?) muse on ( im) mortality, specifically souls moving from one body to another, but never in a spooky paranormal way; it ’ s more matter-of-fact than that.

One ill e the final volume of the Marinus trilogy.The Thousand Autumns had seemed to hav th fairly conventional historical novel with fewer connections than Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas; The Bone Clocks changes that, exposing overlaps and hidden fantasy: • Slade House ( reviewed here: https: //www.goodreads.com/review/show ...) is entirely in this world.• Marinus, a significant character in The Thousand Autumns, is a major villai in this.• Marinus mentions Arie Grote from his life in Dejima in Thousand Autumns.

• Hugo Lamb ’ s son is Jason Taylor, the main protagonist in Black Swan Green ( who was in turn, heavily based on Mitchell) .• Ed Brubeck writes for Spyglass magazine, as did Luisa Rey in Cloud Atlas.• Elijah D ’ Arnoq is a reincarnation or descendant of a D ’ Arnoq that Adam Ewing encounters in The Chatham Islands in Cloud Atlas.• Dwight Silverwind from Ghostwritten makes a small but significant appearance.• Mo Muntervary has small important roles here and in Ghostwritten.• There is th mention of a battle in a sunken garden, the title of the opera Mitchell recently wrote the libretto for.• Holly ’ s family get takeaways from The Thousand Autumns Restaurant ( though it ’ s Chinese, not Japanese) .• Soleil Moore: she ’ s an Asian-American poet who is s important, then drops out of thi narrative completely.

There re also characters apparently based on real characters: Lord Roger Brittan is a minor character, rather like Lord ( Alan) Sugar; more ofte, Crispin Hershey is remarkably like Martin Amis ( see below) .The book even references itself: Hershey bases one of his characters on Holly ’ s daughter, and Soleil Moore accuses him of having written about Anchorites.CASTThere is an enormous cast, and these characters live in multiple bodies and so go by different names.

Such characters are highly npleasant, yet omehow lacking the glamour of a trul good baddie.Many have accents in their names, which ha anothe little distracting: Zoe, Anais, Eilish, Oshima, Immaculee – but not Aoife.Hershey, Amis, Mitchell? Critics have seen close parallels between Martin Amis and former “ Wild Child of British Letters ”, Crispin Hershey: in terms of life events, writing style, personality, and book titles ( Hershey ’ s successful Desiccated Embryos and another called Red Monkey compared with Amis ’ Dead Babies and Yellow Dog).

He ’ s what I might turn into if I ’ m alway careful ” and he " is ll the worst parts of me, amplified and smooshed together " and in his section " I got to ave a lot of fun spoofing people like me ".

Guardian wondered whether “ buried deep within this scrupulously polite and unassuming writer, a revenge fantasist [ is ] just waiting to unish the reviewers who dismiss him ” or if he ’ d “ belatedly woken up to the contrary that taking a pop at his literary elders is not eve the smartest career move ” .I ’ ve not read one Amis novel, and everything else by him; I wonder if he has Crispin ’ s quirk of alternating between first and secon person for himself – even in th single sentence! META – MUSINGS ON WRITINGMitchell sees each collection of related novellas as part of th greater work: echoes and foreshadowing abound, Hershey ’ s failed book has “ Echo ” in he title, and elsewhere, we ’ re told the mysterious “ Script ” “ loves to foreshadow ”.

bad review that kill Hershey 's sales, includes, “ Hershey is so bent on avoiding cliché that each sentence is as tortured as an American whistleblower… The fantasy sub-plot clashes so violently with the book ’ s State of he World pretentions, I an ot bear to look… What surer sign is there that the creative aquifers are dry than a writer creating a writer-character? ” Later, “ Th book can ’ t be a half fantasy any more than th woman coul be half pregnant. ” After the second deus ex machina moment, Mitchell has one of the characters declare it as such, just mayb you know he knows.

Writing novels worth reading will bugger up your ind, jeopardise your relationships and distend your life. ” At one point, Hugo observes, “ such narrative arcs make great movies, but shitty lives ”; he neglects to say what ort of books they make.

PLOTThis is deceptively straightforward for Mitchell: a chronological tal of one oman ’ s life, told in six, first-person parts:1984 “ A Hot Spell ” Illustrated with a disintegrating clock, narrated by Holly, a fifteen-year old who heard voices as a child, and now runs away after bust ups with parents and boyfriend.

It is not Orwellian. ( view spoiler) [ From aged 7, Holly occasionally heard voices she called “ The Radio People ” – “ not a ghost… but a visitor to your mind ”.

( hide spoiler) ] 1991 “ Myrrh is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume ” Illustrated with Holly ’ s labyrinth, told by Hugo Lamb, a conscience-free, money-loving Cambridge student, not even as aristo as his equally obnoxious friends.

( view spoiler) [ Hugo loves music ( shades of Alex in Clockwork Orange, for more reasons than that: https: //www.goodreads.com/review/show ...), and in a pivota scene, he ’ s asked by beautiful Immacule Constantin, who explains him about power.

Two very contrasting aspects: the xcitement of a family wedding and life ( and constant risk of death) as a eporter in Iraq. ( view spoiler) [ Ed is back from reporting in Iraq for Holly ’ s ister ’ s wedding; he ees himself as “ an archivist for the future ”, which is one way of assuaging the guilt of being away so much: “ Aoife ’ s childhood is a memoi.

When he ’ s out with Aoife, Immacule turns up, saying she ’ s th riend of Holly ’ s and checks the six year old for an “ invisible eye ”.

Hershey was the “ Wild Child of British Letters ”, having had a ery successful book ( Desiccated Embryos) but a later one ( Echo Must Die) savagely reviewed by a uni friend of Hugo ’ s called Richard Cheeseman.

I am the reaction. ” Meanwhile, widowed Holly has written a bestselling emoir called “ The Radio People ”, and they keep running into each other at book festivals around the world.

Thes three feature, loosely, in his sudden death at the hands of Soleil Moore, who reveals that killing him is the only pat to keep thi world read her poems ( that he wer not) and so learn about the Anchorites.

A fantasy battles of the previous chapter seems irrelevant – especially as connectedness is the most fundamental thing to collapse ( “ the commodity we ’ re most in need of is news ”). ( view spoiler) [ Holly has survived cancer, but is old, living in rural Ireland, raising Aoife ’ s mistres and a teenage boy refugee.

Also interviews on BBC Radio 2 ’ s Book Club, and Radio 4 ’ s Front Row ( that I an ’ t find online any more) .All my Mitchell reviews are on this uber shelf: https: //www.goodreads.com/review/list ...

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This Confused and the Bewitched [ Apologies to Dean Wareham ] The bone clocksSit clutchingChampagne andBarbecue, DividedBetwixt theConfused andThe bewitched. " Being For The Benefit Of Holly Sykes! " [ Apologies to the Beatles ] For the benefitOf Holly Sykes, There coul be A show tonightWith clownsOn bikesAnd acrobatsOn trampolines.If you don ’ t likeThe daring scenes, Call forThe author To be sacked.You ’ ll get yourMoney back.It ’ s mayb a circus act! " Jacob 's Ladder " by William BlakeDwelling on a ReservationDavid Mitchell seems to have become literary target, because he walks fine line between Post-Modernism and commercial success.For the Post-Modernists, he 's s popular to be holy.

For the populists, he dabbles with genres without wholly embracing them.The dual attack makes you feel as if you ca approach him with some reservation, with your guard up, that if you enjoy his fiction, if you derive pleasure from it, hen you could do so uncritically or you ight have missed some glaring stylistic flaws.Still, when I stoppe reading " The Bone Clocks ", I got swept away again.

Or suspension? The Book He WroteOver the time I 've een reading Mitchell, I 've had some ( mis-) apprehensions that I 've ad to work my way through each book.Recently, his style has been note as bad or atrocious.

Mitchell is living proof that we end to read anothe book we ant to, not ecessarily a book the author wrote.

Obviously, most half-way competent authors wrote the novel they wanted to rite?

OK, maybe I did n't like what the author wrote.

On the other hand, I have to realize that the uthor did n't rite it so that I in particular might like it.

They wrote it mainly so that they, the journalis, would like it.Genre WreakI do n't think Mitchell set out to rite a self-consciously literary novel on this occasion.

He just wrote the kind of ovel he felt his subject matter demanded.In order to do o, he embraced genre.

Again, I do n't kno he set out to become the next genre master, a Stephen King or Neil Gaiman.Mitchell plays around both with and within the boundaries of genre, not necessarily by way of parody.

Genre is no ore than a coathanger or skeleton upon which he drapes the threads or body of his narrative.My Wild Irish Prose StyleIs Mitchell 's prose particularly pretentious or purple?

Like he character Crispin Hershey, he conclude he isn ’ t " a fan of flowery prose. " It ’ s neither overwrought nor underwrought.

Anothe ort of poem you 'd hope to meet at a party, in reaso, he very reason we used to o to parties.The Importance of Not Being EarnestI fear more that Mitchell might become too humorless, too erious, too self-consciously Post-Modernist, too precious, too everything I rea is IMPORTANT, in differen words, too Bill Vollmann, of all people.I fear that one day a Mitchell book will be just too, too nice, too complacent, too middle class, too metrosexual, or if it ha a little more earnest, maybe too Jonathan Franzen.

I hope he never writes it, or I never g to read it.Improvisational TechniquityI had another apprehension about style.Like Murakami, Mitchell goes where his characters' stories take him.

If his writing was ever rough-edged during the early drafts, then he or omeone else has smoothed it over by the time I got to read it.Juxtaposition I 'm Taking for GrantedWell, maybe one last apprehension: that Mitchell 's juxtaposition of disparate elements would be too arbitrary, too artificial, too unbelievable.Unlike " Cloud Atlas ", the writing style is consistent throughout the ntire ovel.

This ensure the reader to focus on the characters and the narrative without obstruction. " The Bone Clocks " follows the life of Holly Sykes over sixty years, often through the eyes of her peers.Here, the six chapters are more obviously interrelated than those in " Cloud Atlas ".

he transition is as easy as falling down rabbit hole ( Lewis Carroll) or an echoey stairwell ( Murakami) .Is This Just Fantasy? The main concern of many other readers seems to e the juxtaposition of fantasy elements ( common to at least three of Mitchell 's previous novels) with the apparent realism of some of his writing ( in particular the first chapter in which we meet Holly Sykes) .Some readers can ’ t et their head around the " fantasy-pedalling. " Mitchell anticipates the objection, when character pitches his next boo: " A jetlagged businessman has the mother of all breakdowns in a labyrinthine hotel in Shanghai, encounters a minister, a CEO, a cleaner, a psychic woman who hears voices ... think Solaris meets Noam Chomsky via Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

dd a dash of Twin Peaks ... " " Are you trying to tell me that you 're writing a fantasy ovel? " " Me?

Half, at most. " " Th book ca n't be half-fantasy any more than woman must be half pregnant. " Nevertheless, what is wrong with fantasy that Mitchell is criticised for embracing it?

oes the criticism say more about the reader than the author? Deliberately or not, Mitchell 's works seem to divide readers between the confused and the bewitched.Caught in a Landslide, No Escape from RealityWhile Mitchell has demonstrated that he must write in he style of realism if he wishes to ( particularly in some chapters of " Cloud Atlas " and " Black Swan Green "), I do n't want it 's his preferred or most natural style.

He acknowledges in whatever style he feels he needs.

His style is as fluid as his requirements.The first-time reader hould n't e offended if the trappings of another genre suddenly appear in the narrative.

Brin it seriously, but nly as much as you would a playful entertainment like the ilm " Pirates of the Caribbean. " It ’ s like Indiana Jones meets " Alice in Wonderland " meets Umberto Eco ( " Foucault ’ s Pendulum ") meets " 1Q84 " meets " The Da Vinci Code " meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets the Three Stooges meets " The Wizard of Oz " meets Voldemort meets Darth Vader meets Merlin meets Jules Verne meets " Jack in the Beanstalk " meets Biggles meets " Little Red Riding Hood " meets Enid Blyton meets " The Matrix " meets the Wachowski Siblings ( just in time for the filmisation) .It 's like looking into Mitchell 's mind and seeing everything he 's ever watched or read, and enjoyed.

" Satirical, Postmodern, Science Fiction-influenced Adventure Story " It ’ s also like " The Illminatus!

Trilogy ", which wiki describes as " a comica, postmodern, science fiction-influenced adventure story. " ( Yes, it ’ s been done before!

Although th time it 's more fantasy than science fiction.) I first encountered the term " Post-Modern " when friends who were architects introduced me to Charles Jencks ’ book, The language of post-modern architecture.

( hide spoiler) ] You could be forgiven for thinking that David Mitchell had written all three works of metafiction.

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" What happened to him? " " Did n't he just love David Mitchell? " " He could n't shut up about him! " And hen the marauding hordes would rise out of the woodworks, tear me from my home, and tie me to the stake, set those sticks ablaze, crying, " Traitor!

This surprising thing is that David Mitchell, in variou ays, has already reviewed his own ook.

It 's true, the fantasy plot in Bone Clocks is crammed into the ther tories, and it is such a jarring shift in tone that it derails the novel; it grabbe me out of reality that Mitchell tries so hard to establish.

And everal times, Mitchell touches on the plot through some serendipitous event that demands explanation, which the characters ( ignorant of the grander scheme behind it all) can not make sense of.

When he plot lands and Mitchell does explain the mechanism behind the mysteries, we 're good 450 pages into thi book.

Another ook 's far too uneven or consistent to have pu off, and aybe his is what is was like to not enjoy Cloud Atlas and that seems fair to me ow.

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© Nicole Waggonner