I came to this book with great expectations. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014 for this, Mitchell’s sixth book, I was very aware of this author by reputation but had never actually read a novel of his. This early in the year it is a little premature to say it’s the best I’ve read in 2016, but the stakes have been raised. This is premium storytelling, unpretentious, clever and all-encompassing.
The Bone Clocks is the story of Holly Sykes, taking place over six decades of her life from the recent past and taking us on an exploration into the near future and what may lie ahead for all of us in terms of global events and catastrophe. There are various narrators through the timeline of the book, all visitors to Holly’s life and showing us her through different lenses. Mitchell’s genius is making us believe in these characters, whether they are on the side of good or evil. And there are those two sides: this is a clever illustration of how the bending of genre can work. The world in which events take place is clearly the very same that we live in but elements of fantasy are woven throughout, gently at first so that the reader will accept the full on Big Bad battle scene that occurs towards the end of the book.
To say that this is a complex novel is a huge understatement. As a novice writer, the idea of having so many characters taking their turn centre stage, each completely drawn and researched to the point that you’re sad to see them move on, is masterful. The amounts of research into these characters and their backgrounds, the humour (Crispin Hershey the washed up novelist resigned to giving talks in broom-cupboard like rooms at literary festivals was a favourite, mixed in with a brief horrific glimpse into a global apocalypse within our own lifetimes, I felt awed throughout. At just over six hundred pages this isn’t a short book but it’s easily read and, for me, quickly.
In short, this is a book that is complicated, but is easy to read, it’s funny and sad in turn. The stakes are high and the sacrifices great. I would recommend this to anyone looking for something different. If you want to read a book that will make you think without being overly intellectual and worthy, then The Bone Clocks is for you.