What was I going to love about a book like this...
"One drowsy summer's day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for 'asylum'. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking . . .
The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly's life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland's Atlantic coast as Europe's oil supply dries up - a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes - daughter, sister, mother, guardian - is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.
Metaphysical thriller, meditation on mortality and chronicle of our self-devouring times, this kaleidoscopic novel crackles with the invention and wit that have made David Mitchell one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. Here is fiction at its most spellbinding and memorable best."
'Metaphysical thriller'...'people who emerge from thin air'... 'brief lapses in the laws of reality,'
'...murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world...'
A bit of futuristic pessimism, surreal shenanigans, wars of the psyche, much suspension of disbelief...
Not my reading fare at all in the slightest, especially this year wherein everything has been grounded in reality and fiction hasn't really had a look in.
So when the very nice proof copy arrived early last year I passed it on to Happy Camper Angela who happens to be a huge fan of David Mitchell's writing. I am more of a One Book David Mitchell fan, having loved Cloud Atlas and failed dismally with everything since; Black Swan Green and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet both consigned to a remote shelf...but there's a thing...when it came to the big book clearance I kept them...just in case his hour cometh.
The very nice hardback proof copy was followed by a finished copy and then a year later a paperback copy by which time I'm beginning to think someone is trying to tell me something. It was the enthusiasm of a very discerning Happy Camper that made me at least open the book and give it a whirl, and to my astonishment I was hooked. This all confirms for me all those reasons why I don't write about a book I haven't enjoyed, simply because I may well love it one day hence, however now trying to explain what The Bone Clocks is about might flummox me.
You see there's this normalish fifteen-year-old girl called Holly Sykes who lives in Gravesend. and it's 1984. Her mum and dad run a pub called the Captain Marlow. She has a brother called Jacko who seems to be on the autistic spectrum, and after a huge row with her mum Holly runs away to her boyfriend Vinny's house. Except Vinny is in bed with her best friend Stella so she heads off to the Isle of Sheppey. The thing is Holly has been having these funny turns, strange absences, visions, that sort of thing. There are cyphers and labyrinths and unspooled cassette tapes and I can tell none of you fancy reading this at all...do you...
Except for a book like this to work for me a writer needs to lead me imperceptibly into the parallel world; catapult me into it in the first few pages and all is lost, and David Mitchell does bide his time. So far so almost normal with The Bone Clocks and I am strangely on Holly's team already.
The action fast forwards to 1991 in Book Two. Holly is now working in a Swiss ski resort and there is little hint of what may have happened in the intervening years but, as with Cloud Atlas, I realise that reading a book by David Mitchell requires an alertness for the signs, the clues and the links...be ready for the oddities to spring up amongst the normal, and by page 194 I had been slowly but steadily conditioned to accept any explanation for any of it. All disbelief was suspended bring on the Anchorites of the Chapel of the Dusk of the Blind Cathar of the Thomasite Monastery of Sidelthorn Pass and I'm on it and filled with excitement and anticipation.
Yes, really, I-could-not-put-this-book-down.
I'm starting to think I can spot an Anchorite (baddies) because they don't age anatomically, unlike the Horologists (goodies) who do, and who die and inherit resurrection as a birthright being reborn forty nine days later.
I can tell I'm still not convincing you because this sounds like a right old lash up doesn't it.
You'll just have to take my word for it that by the time I arrived at Book Four and the year 2015 I was revelling in world-renowned but arrogant, washed-up has-been author Crispin Hershey's experience at the Hay Festival, because he's being upstaged by a new author ...Holly Sykes. There are some brilliant and recognisable parodies of a few well-known figures of our time, and when Crispin Hershey takes revenge on the critic who savaged his last book...well, let's hope it doesn't give any arrogant washed-up authors of our time any ideas. Crispin's ruse backfires stupendously, that's all I'll say.
Fast forward to 2025 and maybe the book lost me a little at this point. The psychic confrontation between the Anchorites and the Horologists is truly bizarre if not a little confusing but I beamed my way through and stuck with the book because after all...
'Some magic is normality you're not yet used to.'
And I wanted to know what happened.
Thence to 2043 and a post-apocalyptic world where the Endarkenment prevails. Civilisation is paying the price for the arrogance and assumptions of previous generations, it's payback time as the fragility of our existence and reliance on electronic systems is explored. So now I am really out of my comfort zone, I usually avoid books like this, but I have been safely delivered there through the previous 500 pages so I stop moaning and happily read to the end, and I'm glad I did.
I'm still not sure I will have convinced anyone that they might want to read The Bone Clocks, but all I can say is maybe pick the book up and read the first chunk and see if it works the same magic for you. See if you too feel the lure of a good book brewing. One that's a bit different and one that will, at the very least, have you marvelling at the seemingly unlimited and fantastical powers of David Mitchell's imagination. It really is quite extraordinary and once I had started I knew I would finish it.
It's a while since I put a book on the Very Good Reads shelf, but I've squeezed this one up there, next to Cloud Atlas.
So have anyone else read The Bone Clocks...
Any more David Mitchell fans out there..
It's all been enough to make me pick up The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and try again.