The author of Cloud Atlas is visionary again in his second novel.
In summer of 2014, I was introduced to Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Someone had told me it was their favourite book ever, and as that claim carries quite a bit of weight, I had to investigate.
(And by investigate, I mean watch the film).
I adored the film, and in fact watched it three times in a row. Albeit, I was having a quiet rainy weekend, but still, the narrative was gripping. The camera work was indulgent, and the shots of Edinburgh made me smile.
Recently when clearing out our flats to move, I found a copy of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. “Ooh”, I said happily, “I like him!” and put it aside to read. Some weeks later, I found myself doing just that; reading the very long, well written, peppered with characters-to-love, and characters-to-fear, book.
If you’re a fan of a novel having three acts, and a narrative arch, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. I found it was more a commentary on characters, rather than a gripping story. Yes it gripped me, but it then released me and left me page turning on my own, wondering why certain characters had disappeared.
I guess the regular plotting of a book shouldn’t stand in the way of a good story, but I feel it would have helped here. This felt more like reportage.
Perhaps this book was written for fans of David Mitchell’s writing and his ideals, I can’t comment as this was my first experience of his written word.
Flashes of brilliance
There were indeed flashes of brilliance, yet it felt like we were being led to a battle that the author hadn’t worked out yet.
As I turned the pages, I could emphasise with Holly Sykes, I liked her very much indeed. I could even emphasise with Hugo Lamb, and I liked Marinus. But by the time he had arrived in the missing ‘third act’, he was ten chapters too late and had ‘turned up to the party with a bottle of non-alcoholic wine’. He was, ironically, wasted.
I found the characters brilliantly illuminated in their environment, but left on the shelf. And why I needed to meet Crispin Hershey on this journey, I’ll never know.
I stopped just short of the last two chapters in mild frustration. I had loved Cloud Atlas, and I was feeling cheated. Uncharacteristically, (honest!), I flicked forward, spotted a few familiar names and decided I would finish the story.
For the size of the book, and the amount of time I had invested so far, I felt I owed it to us all to plough on.
I won’t ruin this review now with spoiling the ending, I mean I’ve brought you this far, let’s part on good terms?
I warn you now, only read of you want to read something that observes rather than participates. If you go in armed with that knowledge, you may enjoy it more than I did, for there is lots to enjoy.
Get your copy of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell here