The Bone Clocks- David Mitchel

Hello readers,here is my review of the novel “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell. Last year I saw the movie “Cloud Atlas” and I did not like the movie( maybe I wasn’t in the right mood). I am part of a Facebook book club and we often suggest books to each other.This book came as a suggestion and reading the synopsis I couldn’t help but be intrigued. I’m always interested in reading unique books and this one sounded right up my alley. I learned it was written by the author of Cloud Atlas and I did have my doubts however it didn’t turn out as bad as I imagined.I enjoyed it a fair bit but was also quite disappointed. I mean, it’s clear he’s having an absolute blast with this Immortals-locked-in-conflict plot, but for me it doesn’t work well as the focus of the novel. It’s all made to sound very important with a heap of capitalized phrases, but I really couldn’t care about it and the other horologists involved. I will try to keep the introduction brief but before I begin, I would like you to know something: Mitchell is a good writer and  a great storyteller, and I was amazed at how everything weaves together throughout. His ability to characterize in his narration was something I sincerely appreciated; the different tones of each character were really entertaining, particularly Hugo Lamb. I had no issues with his narrative and style. It was really the only aspect of the book that I enjoyed. It was a good combination of concise intelligence with the philosophical. It made it easy for me to keep reading if only to find out how everything was connected and its inevitable end. Regardless of my own feelings towards the story, characters, etc., I always appreciate a very well-written book.

With that said, as far as its entertainment value, I have to rate it on the low end. It’s very hard to get engaged in a book where for the majority of the book (probably about 3/4  of the book) I was left wondering about the purpose of what I have been reading and continuously waiting for the actual “meat” of the story to occur. I pride myself in being able to push through slow beginnings and believing there’s a purpose and eventual payoff for it, but this book really took the cake (for lack of a better phrase). I was often left wondering where the story was going when it all just seemed as if the book was one big collection of short stories involving different people and their perspectives with one common thread (which happens to be a character that the book’s narrative starts off with). The only hints of what is to come and the “meat” of the story is given in very small doses through these different narratives. These pockets of clues/hints would’ve worked to whet your intrigue into the actual plot if it wasn’t for the fact that these various inferences actually made sense. When these mentions are made, you have no basis as to what they’re referencing to that you are left as bewildered as the characters themselves. I was left feeling confused, wondering if I missed something in my previous readings and perhaps these hints would play a part further on into the story. It also didn’t help that I didn’t understand the reasoning for the various narratives involved (only one story did play a part further on) other than having a recurring character and seeing how they connect to her and how her life has gone on since being introduced to her at the beginning.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t stay in the dark forever. I just had to wait to read through over half of the book to understand those little hints mentioned earlier in the book. But even then, it took me a while to comprehend what is being explained since some of the vernacular sounded as if they came from a Scientology dictionary. Eventually though I got the picture of what was occurring and once that happens, the story actually became interesting because there was actually some action happening with some supernatural/metaphysical aspect to it. Unfortunately it didn’t last long, as it only was contained within a portion of the book itself and the rest of the story continued on in, more or less, the same fashion except you weren’t left so much in the dark as before.

<<SPOILER ALERT>>

The Bone Clock consists of six interlocking stories, does start out entirely mundane, I’ll grant you that. There’s nothing magical or even terribly unusual about 15-year-old Holly Sykes, in her bedroom above the Grave-send pub her father owns, playing her new Talking Heads album (Fear of Music, if you must know) and mooning about her much older boyfriend Vinnie Costello (No spoiler at all: Vinnie’s a complete tosser). Holly , as a child, was prone to hearing the “Radio People” when no one else around her could.

But… gradually at first, then with increasing velocity, the novel veers into dark fantasy, unveiling in staccato glimpses an occult war between factions of immortal beings who have been living among us undetected for thousands of years.And then… Mitchell goes back to mundanity, for awhile at least, until the uncanny intrudes again.

“The Bone Clocks” takes place over 70 years with each story having Holly Sykes appear in a role (both minor and major) within that story. This novel also delves into the supernatural in a fashion that doesn’t seem absurd because of the fantastic character work done by Mitchell.Each of the sections of “The Bone Clocks” serves to propel the overarching plot forward in some way or another, but I believe that this work will be remembered for its superb character work. The cast is quite large and frequently requires you to acquaint yourself with an entirely new set of characters at the beginning of each section, but it never feels like a chore. Each of the POV characters makes truly human decisions, and while you may not agree with their choices, you can obviously see why they were made.

Each section has its own distinct voice that works in a seemingly different genre, but ties back to both the main story and the overarching themes of the novel.

I would like to say that perhaps everything that was in the book had some meaning that I just didn’t see or understand and maybe there was. Maybe this was a book about changes and the choices that we make and their effects on others. Maybe this is a book about one teenage girl who has some psychic ability and her life as seen by the people she encounters and her bigger purpose. I’m not sure. All I can be sure of is that I finished reading a well written book which never fully engaged me, left me unsure for the majority of the read and was only interested when it got to a certain part in the story close to the quarter end of the book which didn’t last and made feel relieved to have finally gotten to the end. It’s always disappointing when a book doesn’t turn out the way you hope for based on its synopsis.

This book received 3 stars from me because this is a 624 page book that probably shouldn’t have been longer than 400. I did like the stories and it was quite unpredictable though in some sections I just struggled until the last chapter. The book ended with a dystopian misery and I don’t want to give any major spoilers here …. but whatever fear and anxiety you may have are amplified in this last chapter, and in my opinion its so out of alignment with the rest of the book.

 

3of5Stars

 

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