Title: The Bone Clocks

Author: David Mitchell

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 632

Rating: 3.5/5

This book is a very David Mitchell kind of book. It’s epic in scope, has a great concept at the heart of it and is well-written enough to keep you turning the pages, even though it’s a heck of a commitment to take it on. We’re talking about 600+ pages of tiny print, which is a lot even for serious readers.

But it’s definitely worth investing that time, if only for the questions that it asks of the reader. There’s a lot to like here, and a couple of things that stood out to me were the environmental focus and the way that the book is inspired by Mitchell’s love of Japan. But those are just two small pieces of the overall jigsaw.

I also couldn’t help enjoying the opening scenes, purely because we’re introduced to a character who’s so incredibly naïve that we just know that something bad is going to happen to them. It’s kind of like the way George R. R. Martin builds characters up and as you’re reading, you can tell that he’s mostly doing it so that it hurts more once he pulls the rug out from beneath their feet.

Now, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way in this one, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s what the book is all about. I’ve read a few Mitchell books where the plot and the writing style are so intense and impenetrable that you can’t actually figure out what’s going on until the end, or even until you’ve revisited it for a second read.

This one falls somewhere between Black Swan Green and Ghostwritten on the Mitchell scale, which means that it’s relatively linear without becoming too traditional or formulaic. Mitchell is the kind of author who likes to keep things experimental, and here the experiment seems largely to be whether he can create something as epic as Gone with the Wind or The Thorn Birds, but set in a world that’s more familiar to him.

The result is a cracker of a book that keeps on giving, and even the initial whininess of the protagonist before she starts to see just how harsh life can be wasn’t enough to push me away from it. It’s also kind of necessary given what he was planning on doing with the character, kind of like how you need light if you want to truly show darkness.

Other than that, I don’t have too much to say about this one. It was the written equivalent of a Hollywood movie, in that it hit all the beats I was hoping for and just kind of washed over me. It wasn’t as much of a thinker as some of Mitchell’s other books, but it did feel like I was reading about an old friend or something. There was a certain coziness to it that’s difficult to explain.

If you’ve never read any David Mitchell before then it’s not a bad place to start, and I think I’d have to rate it above Cloud Atlas, although Black Swan Green is still my recommendation if you’ve never read any of his stuff before because it’s the most accessible. But honestly, each of his books are masterpieces in their own way, and so just go ahead and pick up anything that you can find of his.

And that’s about it for me. I think this book is going to stick with me for a while and that I might even come back to it in the future, although it’s been a while since I’ve done a re-read. It’s also left me looking forward to reading more of Mitchell’s books.

Learn more about The Bone Clocks.