“We live on, as long as there are people to live on in.”
David Mitchell was one of the writers I wanted to read for ages. He is very well loved and has a prominent place in literature. And I really wanted to start with The Bone Clocks, since it seems to be his most loved work (or at least one most talked about). And it has the prettiest cover, so I naturally navigated towards it. Did this book throw me off David Mitchell? No, not really. But did I enjoy this book? Again, no, not really.
The Bone Clocks is a big book in a lot of different senses – it’s an epic tale that revolves around one woman, is set in multiple decades and it spans centuries. It follows a lot of different characters but it all circles back to Holly Sykes at different points in her life.
This is gonna be a bit of a different review than my usual one. Just because I had such a weird reading experience with this book. I struggled a lot with it during the first 250 pages. It was physically painful for me to pick this up and I had no desire to read it. I even contemplated DNFing it on multiple occasions. But at the 250 page mark, I suddenly and inexplicably got super involved and flew through the rest of the book. But I was still not enjoying it fully. It was strange and I have so many mixed feelings on this one.
I really did enjoy David Mitchell’s writing. It’s beautiful and really insightful, albeit a little pretentious at times. But there’s a sense of grandeur in his writing that is really gripping. He sets out to tell this story that spans millennia and his writing exudes that sentiment. I will say that he uses a lot of words that are difficult to understand, so that the story seems more complex and mysterious. While it’s a clever trick, it’s still an annoying one. But overall, I would still pick up another David Mitchell novel in the future, even if this one was a fiasco for me.
The main premise and the concept of the story are really interesting and also quite clever. The idea of reincarnation vs. immortality is really well thought out and it allows for an interesting discussion of mortality and humans in general. However, I think that this clever concept was ruined by the plot, but more on that later.
The cons outweigh the pros on this one. This book revolves around Holly Sykes, who I think is a great character, but unfortunately, the only chapter we get from her own perspective is the first one. After that, we move on to other people, who are connected to Holly in one way or the other. And I hated those other people.
I found David Mitchell’s male characters to be insufferable. Firstly, we follow Hugo Lamb, who is a sort of villain, so I get why he was awful. I do. But his part of the book is almost a hundred pages long and I had no desire to read a hundred pages long POV of a guy I wanted to punch in the face. Constantly. Then we move onto Ed Brubeck who is a self-centered ass. And while I get that Mitchell was trying to write a very human, flawed character, I just could not stand him either. And then we move on to Crispin Hershey – another insufferable man. He’s a writer and I get that Mitchell was trying to be clever with this and he was making fun of writers and thus himself. I get it. I still could not stand this guy.
I did enjoy the character of Dr. Iris Fenby, but I will say that by that point, the plot got really convoluted and it dampened my enjoyment of Fenby as a character. But I did like her and I found her chapter to be the most insightful and engaging one for me personally.
While this novel is incredibly ambitious, I found its plot to be convoluted but also at the same time really vapid. The above-mentioned use of indecipherable language has one purpose in my opinion – to confuse the reader, thus hiding the plot holes in this novel. I don’t think that a lot of this makes sense. It’s just too much. On one hand, the idea of this book is pretty simple – Holly Sykes is caught in the midst of a war between two groups of immortal people. But the author takes that and makes it so complicated and eventually, makes it hollow. This is clever and it is a great concept, but it’s a concept that was, for me, ruined.
This was one of the weirdest reading experiences. I wouldn’t be quick to recommend this one, because it didn’t work for me, but I still think that David Mitchell is a writer worth checking out!
I would love to hear from you! Have you read this one or any other book by David Mitchell? What are your thoughts? Let me know!
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