The Bone Clocks
By David Mitchell
Cover Image from Amazon.com
As time passes (what I really mean is, as I get older) I am increasingly unforgiving about what I read. If a novel doesn’t appeal, I will give it 60 pages to recapture my interest. If, after those sixty pages, it has recaptured me then I will give it the attention it deserves. Even then, I will (and have) abandoned books at midpoint. I never had such moments with The Bone Clocks.
Mr. Mitchell is great at character development and description. He creates characters that are deep, deeply flawed, deeply interesting, some likable, some detestable. The world he creates is rich and detailed.
It is not, however, linear. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It requires some small flexibility in the reader. The novel is in 6 parts, each of 3 to 10 chapters. All of the six parts are written in the first person, but different people. Only parts one and six are the same character. Each of the first person characters is interesting, the stories compelling. The stories revolve around the central thread, some relating closely, while others are quite tangential.
The longest section, in the very middle, is the least related to the main story thread. About a writer in decline, he is both entertaining and despicable. But the entire section could have been removed without harming the main story. Still, it passed my 60 page rule. It captured my imagination. I was drawn in by the characters and descriptions. It could have stood alone as a novella itself.
The final section was a three chapter epilogue that most novels would have covered in 10 pages. But instead of just tying up loose ends, it was, like the section described above, a novella in itself. Indeed, the story shifted from a mostly present day horror story to post apocalyptic survival.
If you are looking for a straight forward linear story then The Bone Clocks will represent a challenge. It is an excellent set of related novellas that spans decades, continents, genres, and characters. With excellent prose and a fantastic element, it was highly entertaining.
7 thoughts on “Book Review – The Bone Clocks”
Fascinating; I can’t even imagine trying to delve into the minds of 6 different characters and still manage to tell the same tale. Sounds like Mitchell did a great job.
What is your criteria for book reviews? I’m having trouble finding your ‘reviews policy’ page.
You can find my blog at: https://thomasmwatt.wordpress.com
Hi Thomas. I’m just a guy, and I write about stuff that interests me at the moment. I have no plans to review upon request.
I did check out your blog, tho. Seems like you are really keen on writing, which I wholly support. Writing is awesome, and I wish you the best.
Thank you bsdonovan.That’s smart; you should only review books you would enjoy reading regardless.
Liking the short review. Been struggling with how to review a novel that’s all about being in the moment and not long on explanations for fucking anything. It’s good. I feel like I’ve been there. Just not sure how to sell a book where stuff happens without resolution?
Glad you like it.
Not sure how to help you on your own review. What is it called.
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The book is The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It’s a charming place novel – all about being in an almost real Victorian England – that feels strangely unresolved at the end. The wordsmithing skills are excellent. The sense of place is wonderful. And yet it feels as if two thirds of the way through it diverges to something unexpected. That may be my false perception of what the author created. And it’s a first novel recommended by a friend, so of course the whole “rating” thing on various sites also comes into it. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it a lot. It’s just hard to define.