I just finished reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, his novel from 2014. Just, WOW! I guess this post is technically a book review… but not really. I have to talk about so much more than just the book.
You can see in my initial illustration that I read this book to pieces. Literally. (And I was an English Major in college, so I LITERALLY know what literally means!)
I discovered Mitchell as a writer when I happened onto the book and movie pair of Cloud Atlas. It enthralled me. I read the book, a complex fantasy about time and connections, about as deeply and intricately as any book that I have ever read. I fell in love. It was a love as deep and wide as my love of Dickens or my love of Twain… even my love of Terry Pratchett.
It is like the picture on the left. I can’t stop looking into it and seeing more and more. It is plotted and put together like a finely crafted jeweled timepiece.
And this new book is almost exactly like that. It is a first- person narrative in six parts with five different narrators. Holly Sykes, the central character, is the narrator of the first and last parts, in the past in the 1980’s, and in the future in 2043. The titular metaphor of the bone clocks is about the human body and how it measures time from youth to old age. And it is pictured as a clock ticking in practically all it’s forms, from a child who is snuffed out at eight years of age to horologists who have lived for a thousand years by being reincarnated with past lives intact.
Fantasy and photographic realism intertwine and filigree this book like a vast kaleidoscope of many colors, peoples, societies, and places. At one point David Mitchell even inserts himself into the narrative cleverly as the narrator of part four, Crispin Hershey, the popular English novelist struggling to stay on top of the literary world. He even indulges every writer’s fantasy and murders himself in the course of the story.
David Mitchell is the reason I have to read voraciously and write endlessly. His works seem to contain an entire universe of ideas and portraits and events and predictions and wisdoms. And he clearly shows me that his universe is not the only one that needs to be written before the world ends. Books are life, and life is in books. And when the world as we know it is indeed gone, then they will be the most important thing we ever did. Even if no one is left to read them.
And so, I read this book until it fell into pieces, its spine broken and its back cover lost. To be fair, I bought it at a used book store, and the paperback copy was obviously read by previous owners cover to cover. The pages were already dog eared with some pages having their corners turned down to show where someone left off and picked up reading before me. But that, too, is significant. I am not the only one who devoured this book and its life-sustaining stories. Know that, if you do decide to read and love this book, you are definitely not the only one. I’d lend you my copy. But… well, it’s already in pieces.