review by Joe Vaz
Hardcover: 609 pages
I’ve spent the last few days in Port Edward, KwaZulu Natal on a film shoot, but in reality I’ve spent it in the heads of Crispin Hershey, Holly Sykes, Dr. Iris Fenby, Hugo Lamb, and Ed Brubeck. Or to put it more aptly, in the worlds and words of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.
Now I know I’m a little late to the game, but, holy shit is David Mitchell an astounding writer.
Fans of his work (or viewers of Cloud Atlas) will be familiar with his style of interlocking novellas told from different character viewpoints that, on their own, are beautiful snapshots of a moment in time, but as a whole weave an epic, fantastical, heartbreaking, poignant and breathtaking story.
The book starts in the mid-80’s with Holly Sykes, aged 15, in Gravesend. Daughter of a pub-landlord and madly in love for the first time in her life. From there Mitchell gently takes your hand and leads you through an adventure that is sometimes frightening, sometimes heartbreaking, but mostly just beautiful.
The Bone Clocks is such a sumptuously stunning read that every page, every sentence, practically every word, leaves you breathless. I’ll be honest I’ve never read a book so beautifully crafted before.
Mitchell’s writing, and more importantly his character creation, is off the charts. His strength comes in the first person narrative of each character. Having very little physical description, it is left wholly to the individual character voice to create a fully-realised image of each narrator, and Mitchell excels at this.
Here we have the 15 year-old lovesick girl, then a pompous moneyed Cambridge student who is very used to things working out his way. It continues through a grizzled war-journalist then an ego-maniacal darling of British literature, and so on. Each chapter reveals a larger piece of the whole.
The Bone Clocks is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautifully structured and told stories I’ve read in a very long time.
Now excuse me while I go and buy Mitchell’s entire back-catalogue.