David Mitchell is by far one of my favourite authors (no one can quite knock Margaret Atwood off the top spot), I’ve read, and enjoyed, Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten, and The Thousands Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I also, hopefully, have a copy of Slade House reserved for me on Santa’s sleigh.
I found this quote (on his website admittedly!):
“A genre-bending, time-leaping, world-traveling, puzzle-making, literary magician.”
That pretty much sums him up. He has a great skill at creating completely different, completely real people, often very unlikable people. He also then throws in some bonkers supernatural stuff.
In The Bone Clocks we start in 1984 with Holly, a 15 year old girl who runs away after a fight with her mum and boyfriend. We hear her internal monologue as she imagines what her mum will think and do when she finds her gone. And then she hitches a lift with a couple who end up being murdered by a strange man who keeps asking her if she is Marinus or Esther Little? And talking about horology and the script.
We move through time with each section, and into the mind of a different character. As we experience their normal everyday lives there are strange mysterious characters swirling around them.
Dr Marinus was the first Chinese person I ever met, apart from the ones at the Thousand Autumns Restaurant where me and Brendan were sometimes sent for takeaways if Mam was too tired to cook.
As with most Mitchell you need to read about 300pages before you have any idea what’s going on, but the key thing here is that you want to. For me the problem with this book is that I really enjoyed the stuff at the beginning, I liked Holly when she was young, and I didn’t really get much sense of the supernatural craziness that was to come. There were tiny glimpses but in the penultimate section it’s full on Anchorites and Blind Cathars and whatnot. I found all that really hard to understand and didn’t seem to gel with the rest of the book.
There was also a chapter where our protagonist was an author, Crispin Hershey, struggling to keep himself relavent on the literary circuit. Hershey has written a book about an author, and Mitchell is writing a chapter about an author writing about a author. I kinda of liked it but it sort of felt a bit too clever.
I longed for the days of Jacob de Zoet, whose Thousand Autumns remain my favourite Mitchell book. The narrative structure was simpler than his other works, it still got super weird towards the end but I happily went with it.
Anyway, subpar Mitchell is still better than most!