The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell

I hardly know what to say about The Bone Clocks. I certainly don't know how to describe it, rate it or even review it. Which is deeply unhelpful, but I've only just finished it and am still, therefore, in the throes of a major book hangover which I suspect will persist for several days.

 

On the most basic and prosaic of levels, it tells the life-story of Holly Sykes, daughter of an Irish landlord in Kent, narrated by those around her (who are, it has to be said, chiefly male). It's also - indirectly - the story of an age-old War between psychic immortals; a fable of the future, which, as Mitchell's pet adage has it, looks very much like our past; and an exploration of sorts into what it means to be human and mortal.

 

Random Thought #1: Like Cloud Atlas, it's only after you've turned the last page of The Bone Clocks that it hits you, emotionally and mentally. The whole, dizzying scale of it, the tragedy, the fantasy, the astonishment. Self-referentiality is one of Mitchell's favourite tricks, but the links here to Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten and Black Swan Green feel more than superficial, and make me wonder about implications: are the Prescients of Cloud Atlas Horologists, then? Are Luisa Rey and Robert Frobisher and Sonmi-453 all one Horologist? And so on.

 

Random Thought #2: The characters. Are heartbreaking, all of them. Holly Sykes, yes, but also Jacko and Ed Brubeck and Lorelei and Crispin Hershey and the Atemporals and even bloody Hugo Lamb, the sociopath who once loved a girl for a night - "when we were both young". Bloody hell.

 

Random Thought #3: I love the way that while The Bone Clocks contains fantasy elements all through - one of the things that kept me reading - the fantasy isn't, ultimately, the most important thing here. Because, after all, magic is only normality you haven't got used to yet. It doesn't solve the Big Problems, as every fantasy reader knows.

 

Random Thought #4: This is a bloody long book, at almost 600 pages, but it's worth every word. Every Word.

 

I suspect I'm going to reread this so-called review later with embarrassment, but I can't arrange my thoughts any better than this at the moment. It made my heart ache and my brain hurt and ALL THE THINGS. JUST READ THE BOOK, PEOPLE.