Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Bone Clocks

I had never read anything by David Mitchell before The Bone Clocks and I picked it because Audible had it on sale and I thought it sounded interesting. The story is about Holly Sykes, and when the book begins she is a teenager in 1980s England. She runs away from home after a fight with her mother, and soon encounters all sorts of craziness. It turns out that Holly is a "singular" sort of young lady, meaning that she has psychic abilities and she's attracted forces of both good and evil.

Then her younger brother Jacko goes missing, which is really the inciting incident of the whole story, for Jacko's disappearance sets a much broader battle into motion, although it will take years for this battle to come to fruition.

The first chapter is from Holly's POV, which I liked quite a bit. Mitchell did a good job of writing in a teen girl's voice, and Holly is tough, no-nonsense, yet very likable. The other chapters are all from other character's POVs, until the end, when it switches back to a 74-year-old Holly living in a post apocalypse Ireland. Although it's not always clear at the beginning of each chapter, eventually the reader understands what the new narrator's connection is with Holly, and how their interactions with her seems to bring out the best of their personalites.

There is also always a bigger theme, about life and death, and the meaning of our daily actions and interactions. We are all "bone clocks" - ticking time bombs, waiting to die. But at what price comes immortality? As Holly discovers, it is our love and generosity, and our willingness to sacrifice for others, that gives life meaning, and that's something that all the characters must contemplate at some point in this epic novel.

I really liked The Bone Clocks. David Mitchell has defied genre by making it part fantasy, part drama, and part social commentary. His characters are not always likable (although Cripsin Hershey really grew on me) but they are always redeemable. While I started out listening to it on audio, eventually I switched to reading it, and I'm glad I did. There were many passages I read over and over, because they left me with a lot to think about. I saw one book review headline, that The Bone Clocks is mostly empty calories, but I couldn't disagree more. It's not difficult reading, but after you ingest it, you're full for a long time.

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