Cloud Atlas, recommended by a friend years ago, rocked my literary world, with the prose modeled after some of my favorite texts (like Moby Dick and Brave New World). However, I didn’t love Black Swan Green (maybe the repetitive comparisons to Catcher in the Rye threw me off), so I was a little wary of Bone Clocks, but I happened upon it in the lucky day reads section of my local library, and I snatched it up right quick. I’ve read less fantasy and magical genres in my adulthood, but this book had so much verisimilitude and only a wee bit of the magic, so it satisfied my desire for reality and a little mystery.
I cannot possibly explain how much I love the multiple-narrative style, and how the heteroglossic approach David Mitchell takes with Bone Clocks works perfectly with the topic. I found myself wondering about Holly Sykes days and even weeks after reading this. We begin with Holly as a teenager, and the book passes through time and experience and leaves us with Holly Sykes as an old woman. She has a short-lived relationship in her early twenties, a longer relationship (and a child) with a journalist, and a friendship with an author in her later years. Holly progresses through all the trials and tribulations of what it is to be human, and intermingled are a few run-ins with a group of beings who want to steal youth and life from those who are strong in the third eye. There’s a group opposing the evil ones, let by Ester Little, and so Holly and her friends and family end up in the middle of a centuries-long struggle for eternal life.
Reading this book was compelling for a number of reasons–the plot drove me to turn page after page, but there were also numerous literary references–The Lord of the Flies came up numerous times, as did references to “The Second Coming.” I especially appreciated the writers in the book writing about writing and writing about writers who write about writing (so meta, as my students would say). I found myself writing down so many nuggets of wisdom and wit as I read, I filled three pages. I shall share only the most compelling (and epigrammatic) here, with you.
- “Being born’s a hell of a lottery.”
- “Coupling is frenzy; decoupling is farce.”
- “Who is spared love is spared grief.”
- “Life is a terminal illness.”
- “You only value something if you know it’ll end.”
- “When a parent dies, a filing cabinet full of all the fascinating stuff also ceases to exist.”
- “However much you love them, your own children are only ever on loan.”
- “We all have less time than we think.”
- “Men marry women hoping they’ll never change. Women marry men hoping they will.”
- “Adverbs are cholesterol in the veins of prose.”
- “Normal is whatever you have come to take for granted.”
- “We live on, as long as there are people to live on in.”
What I love best about Bone Clocks, however, can be summed up thusly: he captures what it means to be human between the pages of this book. I can see myself returning to this book again and again to revist Holly Sykes and her family.