Review: The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is a sprawling, intricate novel constructed of well-crafted parts.   It is literally broken into sections that are broken up further into individual narrative bits – usually a day’s events – that interconnect to form the decades-spanning whole.  The sectioning is clear and explicit. Mitchell seems to be pointing out the parts that make up the whole.  At the same time, the whole is economical and sleek, though it didn’t feel that way as I read it.  It felt like it meandered in places – pleasantly – but on reflection there was no wasted prose.

Each section covers a different age of the world and a character. Most are told from different character’s points of view. Mitchell does an excellent job making each novelette stand on its own.  They all have a strong sense of place and time.  Each seems its own self contained work.  In addition to the strong location and point of view, each is tonally and thematically complete unto itself.  They feel like individual novels, but also link together in terms of plot and larger themes and tones.  It’s an impressive effect, this holographic fractal structure.

Bone Clocks has a significant fantasy component, complete with magic and secret societies that are largely unseen by mortals.Mitchell is such a good writer that these elements often seem unnecessary.  Several times I noticed that I preferred to escape the escapism parts and get back to the characters’ day-to-day lives. One of the characters running away from home and breaking her heart felt more important than the brushes with a secret society that led to. Mitchell’s literary skills are on vivid display there, making the prosaic more engaging than the magical.

The magic is key to the literary power and vice versa, though.  I think Clocks is ultimately more engaging and interesting for its inclusion.

Overall Clocks is a vast clockwork of ideas, passions, and interconnections that is well worth exploring and chewing on over time.

Strongly Recommended.

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