Friday, April 20, 2018

Book Review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

I found 'The Bone Clocks' by roaming the library and scanning the shelves for something that looked interesting to read. Having read a couple of other David Mitchell books and enjoying them all, I decided to go for 'The Bone Clocks.' It is seriously one of my new all time favorite books! I am so glad I decided to read it. It has realistic characters that, even knowing it is not true, I feel like they exist out there in the world. 'The Bone Clocks' also had thought provoking ideas and insights into woes of modernity. It has fantastical elements (which I love!) but is still firmly grounded in our reality. The plot was full of surprises and awe! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to delve into a fascinating book.


A couple of times while reading this book, I have told my friends with giddy excitement how good it is. When they ask what it is about, I always stumble to come up with a cohesive way of explaining the plot. I say something like "There's this girl, Holly, and she is psychic, sort of. And she runs away. And her brother disappears. And there are these people who are basically immortal, but there are two types of immortal people, ones who get there immortality through murdering others and the other groups souls travel into new bodies." My description is met with confused looks so I say, 'Trust me, it is really good!'

David Mitchell is best known for his novel 'Cloud Atlas' which was turned into a movie several years ago. My sci-fi/fantasy book club read this book and then as a group watched the movie in the theater. 'The Bone Clocks' and 'Cloud Atlas' share a similar DNA. Both books span many decades, they both explore the idea of the same soul existing in different people (although in Cloud Atlas it is in the form of reincarnation where as in 'The Bone Clocks' is through a group of people who basically have a magical ability where there soul travels into a new body after death, and keeps the memories of all their lives) and both books are told from the point of view of many different characters. I really enjoyed Cloud Atlas, but The Bone Clocks was even more engaging. 

The story starts of following the character Holly Sykes. After a row with her mother and then a heartbreak from her boyfriend, she runs away to a strawberry farm. It is only for a short couple of days that Holly is gone, but in this short time, she witnesses a murder, forgets she witnesses a murder (with help from the horologists) and her little brother Jacko goes missing. Holly comes home, but she grows up never knowing what happened to her strange but sweet little brother. While following Holly's story during her time as a runaway, we learn a bit about her past, in particular her encounters with voices she calls 'The Radio People.' It isn't until a doctor named Marinus sees her and seems to cure her by putting his finger to her forehead that Holly stops hearing these voices. Her family thinks it was all just in her head, but we the reader knows it was so much more! 

After following the story of Holly and her weekend escape to the strawberry farm, the book transitions to the point of view of Hugo Lamb. I was concerned that was the last we would see of Holly who I had quickly grown to like and worry about! But the entire novel is about Holly's life in particular her relationship with 'the radio people.' 

There are two different types of people mystical people in the book. The anchorites and the horologists. Both sets of people are essentially immortal and have magical powers. The anchorites achieve their immortality through killing others, while the horologists achieves those through a form of reincarnation. They live out their whole lives as one person, and after they die their soul goes into that of another person, usually a child just as the child died and their soul exits. The two sides have very different views on morality, and a war is brewing between them in which Holly plays an important role.

  Besides Hugo Lamb, who is a young man with psychopathic instincts, the books follows a war correspondent (and Holly's husband) Ed Burbank, a bitter writer named Crispin Hershey, Marinus the horologist, and at the very end goes back to Holly's point of view as an old lady. Mitchell's ability to switch tone from character to character is impressive! Each section truly felt like it was being told by a different person with their own outlook and idiosyncrasies!

I would recommend this book to people who like flights-of-fancy interspersed with introspective seriousness. This is a perfect book to read late at night when you should be sleeping while sad but slightly whimsical music plays in the background. (like Vashti Bunyan or Sibylle Baier)

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