English author David Mitchell is back with a new book to share. Four years following the release of his previous novel, “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” this new one offers his readers a thorough read of a multi-narrative plotline, interconnections, and a trip through time; a set of plot maneuvers that haven’t been used since his 2004 novel, “Cloud Atlas.” It is called “The Bone Clocks.”
The year is 1984 in Gravesend, England. It starts off with teenage runaway Holly Sykes, roaming about the countryside on her own, when she casually offers asylum to an elder woman by the name of Esther Little. By 2043, she is living in a cottage in Ireland, raising her granddaughter and another child, wanting nothing more but for them to live in a safer environment than they already live in. By that point, Holly has experienced a lot in her life- but it’s the invisible but perpetuating war between two soul-based forces, that has come into her life again and again, that’s had an especially effective impact on her through it all.
We as readers experience this life of Holly’s through her eyes, along with that of a Cambridge undergraduate-turned-sociopath, a war-induced foreign correspondent, a middle-aged former bestselling author, as well as an unlikely ally for Holly. Together through their experiences throughout the course of time, not only does this mysterious war play out, but also Holly’s above average life.
First of which I must say that I like how characters from some of Mitchell’s previous novels make an appearance in some way in this new one. He has a knack for doing that, and I respect that. It’s not just the characters in this specific book that are connected; it’s all the characters throughout all the books as well.
I also liked how this mystical plotline of this invisible war is weaved in and out throughout time. It adds a bit of fantasy to an otherwise rapidly changing world. It’s this- along with other things- that change at a slower pace.
In regards to the numerous time periods incorporated into the text, I like how about half of it is set in the future. I like how Mitchell took a lot of what is custom to our time period now- politics, technology, etc.- and takes them to a different place. For instance, on a political level, by the time Holly is of old age, China will have become so incredibly impactful on the world, that a new dialect called “Manglish”- a cross between Mandarin and English- will emerge. As for a more comedic example, Mitchell predicts Justin Bieber’s fifth divorce by the time he’s in his early 30’s.
As much as it is a thriller-esque journey, “The Bone Clocks” is also a relatively subtle novel in my opinion. If anything, the heavy-duty action doesn’t happen until about 2/3’s of the way into the book. However, I would not advice allowing this one flaw as an excuse to pass upon this novel altogether.
Mitchell has given his readers the opportunity to swim in his imagination once again, and I can assure you that it was a fantastic dip in the pool, in more ways than one.