Review: David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks

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Wow, what a ride this book was and, I think, with supernatural themes that are appropriate to me reviewing around Halloween.

I was lucky enough to win a proof copy of this book, signed by David Mitchell, before it came out. But due to final year deadlines and dissertations I only got around to reading it last month and the wait was definitely worth it.

The blurb got me really excited for the book because although I’m not a big lover of fantasy stories, I do enjoy the mysterious and otherworldly – the extraordinary found hiding within the mundane – that’s exactly what Bone Clocks is. The beginning is so distinctly normal about an Irish teenage girl in the 70s throwing a wobbler and deciding to run away from home for a few days just to scare her family, I found it difficult to see how it could develop into the supernatural or otherworldly story of the ‘Radio People’. But that’s why I enjoyed the book, the everyday settings which are so normal to us that we barely notice them allows the possibility for a whole other world to be hiding right under our noses and we have no idea.

It is almost as if you cannot disbelief it entirely because you can see the normality which the supernatural hides behind and how easy it would be to pass unnoticed, particularly in a time when we all walk around with our heads in our mobile devices.That’s why the book is not just about the supernatural because it’s not just some ghost story, it’s otherworldliness is far more complex than that.

My only issue with the book is that the length of it sometimes means that you recognise a character’s name from about 300 pages ago but because so much has happened since and so many decades and realms have been passed through, it’s sometimes easy to forget exactly who that character is or how they came up before. I often found myself flicking back through the book to find the character to make the story links. Also I found myself in the last quarter of the book often pausing in between chapters to make sense of the story as all the various threads were finally starting to unravel and come together.

I wouldn’t say the complexity is a negative though. It requires your constant attention while you’re reading it but it isn’t too much that you would find it impossible to follow. The complexity and various threads and stories only adds to the almost haunting element that so much supernatural powers could be living parallel with normal human lives and Holly Sykes makes a very interesting boundary or medium between the two.

The fact that the female protagonists story is followed through the years to the ultimate rise and fall of civilised society and fossil fuels is a very haunting story because it runs close enough to our own timeframes and our own futures to make us seriously question the future of technology and the human race and whether the regression of those things is something that could plausibly happen in the near future. The idea that in her lifetime Holly sees the late 20th century rise of technology and fuels then peak and destroy itself in the mid-21st century is an uncomfortably realistic plot line which grounds the supernatural element of the book.

Another great book, long listed for the 2014 Man Booker and definitely worth a read. Looking forward to reading his new book Slade House and seeings the similarities and themes between the two books.
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