David Mitchell is still going for the weird and the wonderful

Written by
David Mitchell in 2014

There was a lot of hype surrounding David Mitchell’s latest novel The Bone Clocks. Personally, I really enjoyed Cloud Atlas, which was beautifully written and had interesting stories. Definitely one of the more thematically and structurally interesting engrossing books in recent years. So, after all the hype and good reviews, I decided to try out his latest tome for myself.

The Bone Clocks, much like Cloud Atlas, jumps around in time and flits between point-of-view characters, though it doesn’t do massive leaps in time. Divided into six separate parts, t begins with Holly Sykes, a tough teenager in Gravesend who runs away following a heated argument with her mother about a boyfriend.

We find out throughout her journey that strange things have always happened to her, like hearing voices, seeing people and predicting the future. We also find out she’s stubborn as a mule, but at heart she’s still just an insecure teenager. We then move on to other characters, whom Holly meets throughout her life. Some of these characters are neutral, good or bad, and the world and Holly change throughout time.

The reason this book moves in the way it does, is that Holly becomes a central figure in the fight between a bunch of souls who constantly reincarnate, and an evil society that eat souls to stay forever young. Oh and both of them have telekinetic powers. Or something.

Yes, you read that right. Sort of immortal soul eating megalomaniacs with superpowers. Look, if you read David Mitchell’s books, you don’t come and stay for seemingly normal stuff. In fact, you open this book fully expecting strange stuff to be going on. I mean, Holly herself states that strange stuff happens to her all the time. Even with all the strange happenings, the prose is beautiful and carries the characters extremely well. Each point-of-view character has his or her own personality and backstory exquisitely fleshed out.

The weakest part of the book though is its penultimate part. The bit where it’s supposed to be climatic, or at least exciting. I suppose it is, but the revelations about the slow moving cold then hot war between soul eaters and reincarnates is probably a little too sudden, if you’re not expecting strangeness. It’s weakest because there’s too much supernatural gobbledy-gook (which is hinted at earlier), and because of that, it feels a bit too contrived. That this book is set in Mitchell’s in-head alternate universe also makes it tied into his other novels in some way.

Like a lot of Mitchell’s stories, this one continues on the themes of love, loss, aging and getting on with it despite adversity. Holly character is the epitome of these themes, as she loses family members, friends and health during the brief glimpses we have of her life, from rebellious teen to world weary grandmother. The Bone Clocks is beautifully written and inhabits each character’s head perfectly. I just wish the supernatural stuff was a little bit less ridiculous.


Entertaining read, with the typical strangeness of David Mitchell’s novels.

Read this if you…

Enjoy reading completely strange stuff.

Skip this if you…

Don’t like jumping around in time.


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