The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell

David Mitchell likes to write about writing. There are multiple novelists in The Bone Clocks, and references to some writers other Mitchell books. The characters discuss "The Script" which acts as the insivible hand guiding the characters. Multiple times we see Mitchell come through the pages and acknowledge some of the criticisms, including s character actually referencing a deus ex machina. The meta-narrative weaves immortality and psychological power throughout six different sections that give various lenses to the life of Holly Sikes from her teenage rebellion in 1986 to a distopian 2048.

We're introduced early on to a couple supernatural groups of characters who traverse these time periods (although the we don't know that yet) and the war between the neutral-good Horologists and the lawful-evil Anchorites. The Anchorites are actually the Anchorites of the Chapel of the Dusk of the Blind Cathar of the Thomasite Monastary of Sidelhorn Pass, but all that's important is they drink the souls of innocents in a chapel outside of reality to artificially extend their lives. That sentence can tell you a lot about the nature of The Bone Clocks, which is a human tale about growing old that's entwined with a supernatural YA book. The supernatural is more prominent in this book than some of the other parts of the Mitchell uber-book, (We can assume the monastery cult in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is some version of the psychodecanting that the Anchorites practice.) which isn't totally unwelcome, but you might need to adjust your expectations. A minor point of frustration was that these supernatural elements bookend the narrative and are almost totally absent from the interior.

Mitchell's greatest strength and weakness in this book in the detail given to each sections and each narrator's life. Sometimes the detail is illuminating, but often it seems overwritten like an artist fussing over the strands of hair on her model. To his credit, this detail doesn't seem to slow down the overall pace of the book. The way the stories nest inside each other is well done in typical Mitchell style, with strings weaving over each other across the time periods. I wanted to find more time to keep reading, move to the next time period, meet the new narrator and put together the puzzle pieces. It's a dense book that has themes that I haven't even touched on here, because they're still slowly turning over in head.


640 pages
Published 2014
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