The Bone Clocks Readalong Part 2

Thursday, February 16, 2017

This post assumes that you have read the book. 

Whoa. So first off, David Mitchell tweeted to a few of us during the readalong, which kind of made my month. 

Now to dive into the second half of the book… 

Crispin Hershey’s Lonely Planet: 2015 – Crispin Hershey 
Crispin is such a self-centered jerk at the beginning of his section. I felt like his character became a bit more grounded over the few years we had with him. I thought it was interesting to see how Holly’s “gift” developed as she got older. It was such a blessing and a curse for her. I was absolutely horrified by how Crispin’s “prank” ended up ruining a man’s life. It was certainly a lesson in choosing forgiveness over revenge. 

Honestly, I was hoping to learn a bit more about Soleil Moore, the woman who shot him. I felt like she came out of nowhere and I wanted to know more about how she’d discovered so much. I thought she’d pop up in one of the final two sections, but she never did. 

An Horologist’s Labyrinth: 2025 – Marinus 

This section felt so different from the others. I liked it because it explained so much of the backstory that was only hinted at before. At the same time, I missed the human connection I felt in some of the other sections. This one felt a bit like watching a movie unfold, if that makes any sense. 

After Marinus explains the history of the Anchorites and Horologists, I felt more invested in the fight between the two warring factions. While reading this section I went back and reread the battle scene from the first section. It made so much more sense. Here’s a brief description I found of the two sides: 
“The good guys are a group of people who get reincarnated 49 days after they die, with full knowledge of their past lives. The bad guys achieve a kind of pseudo-immortality – they stop ageing, but can still be killed by violence or accident – by murdering psychic children, ‘decanting’ their souls into an evil wine." 

That just about covers it. Although in the book it felt much more human to me because by the time we learn all of this we are already invested in Marinus’ story. For me, Marinus was a great character. She gives us a deeper view into the supernatural elements, but she also conveys her loneliness before finding the other horologists and her grief after she loses so many of her friends in 1984. When she searches for Esther in Holly’s memories, I liked the glimpses we gained into Holly’s life. 

This section was full of action, betrayal, backstabbing, and a massive battle. So much happens! 

Sheep’s Head: 2043 
So, I thought it was a strange choice to have everything come to a head in the last section, then we jump forward in time and land on the sedate Sheep’s Head island. It’s interesting to see the turn the world has taken, but for me it felt anticlimactic. I also felt like I was being preached at about climate change, which took me out of the story while I was reading it. 

I did like seeing Holly as an older woman. That was one of my favorite parts of the entire book, seeing Holly’s life at different points. Mitchell created such a rich character in Holly Sykes. I loved watching her mature and grieve and struggle and fall in love. 

BOTTOM LINE: This book is one that will be with me for a long time. It felt like such an experience. Sometimes I read things and a week or two later I realize very little of the book stuck with me. That won’t be the case with The Bone Clocks. Part of that is because of its length, but it’s also because it’s a complex novel. I had to work hard to make sure I was paying attention and catching references in each section. It doesn’t sound fun when you describe it that way, but it really was. I loved the layers of the story. I was constantly thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.

This is definitely not a book I would recommend to everyone. There were parts and characters that I struggled to connect with, but on the whole, I really loved it. Mitchell doesn’t create light, disposable novels. His books should be savored. He builds worlds that leave you reeling and I was left wanting to read even more of his work.


The Bone Clocks Readalong Part 1

Friday, January 20, 2017

This post assumes that you have read the first half of the book.

A Hot Spell: 1984 – Holly Sykes
The Bone Clocks kicks off with Holly Sykes. She’s a British teenager, typically rebellious and in love for the first time. Her story is relatable, even if she’s a bit annoying at first (aren’t we all annoying at that age?).

I loved Holly section. Mitchell made her feel immediately accessible and real. She feels like any teenager you might know, someone young, dealing with heartbreak for the first time. That's crucial because just as you get comfortable in her story, things get weird. We understand her and relate to her and so when the situation turns to the fantastical we can imagine how strange the scenario would be through her eyes. Her section reminded me a little bit of The Dark Is Rising series.

Myrrh Is Mine, Its Bitter Perfume: 1991 – Hugo Lamb

Next in line is a devious university student. Hugo’s lack of a moral code and creativity in his scheming was fascinating. He was a character who you aren't exactly rooting for, but you secretly enjoy seeing what he can get away with. He’s so charismatic, you can see how others trust him and fall under his spell. It was strange, almost a bit out of character, to see him actually care about something when he met Holly. In every scene of his, I just kept thinking, what’s his angle? He always thought through every situation to find out exactly how it would benefit him. So every time he interacted with someone, I was just waiting to see what his true motivation was.

The Wedding Bash: 2004 – Ed Brubeck

Ed is a war journalist working in Baghdad. It’s the same Ed from Holly’s section and now they have a daughter together and he’s home for a short trip for Holly’s sister’s wedding on the Brighton pier. When his daughter Aoife went missing my entire body was anxious. I was terrified for Ed and Holly, and the entire Sykes family, which had already been through this with Jacko.

I loved Ed’s conversation on the pier with Immaculée Constantin. She's so deliciously evil. I also loved the conversation with Holly's great aunt Eilísh. Her experience with Jacko shed so much light on the story. The flashbacks to Ed's time in Baghdad lost me for a minute because it was so different from the rest of the book, but just like the other switches in narrative, after a bit it clicked for me.

A Few Thoughts:

Switching gears between each story was hard. I remember feeling the same way when reading Cloud Atlas. Each section was so different, at first there felt like there was no flow between them. But soon you fall into a new rhythm and somehow it works. By the time I finished the third section it was obvious that Holly was the thread tying all the stories together. I loved that we were able to see her at different stages throughout her life. It reminded me of Kitchens of the Great Midwest in the sense that it is one character’s story, but told through the eyes of so many people around her.

One of the most fascinating things about this book is that it's mainly about normal people, with everyday problems, except there's also a supernatural element threaded through the entire book. The very fact that the characters are so relatable and human makes the supernatural element so readable. Because you were seeing it through their eyes and their incredulity matches your own. I loved the way that was handled.
It is not an easy book to read. It is complicated and at times it’s hard to follow. But for me, so far, the stumbling blocks have been more than worth it. I’m intrigued by the whole world Mitchell has created. Each character adds intricate layers to the story. It's beautifully written. I feel like each section has its own unique tone and cadence. I certainly don’t understand the whole picture yet, but I trust that we’ll get there.

“When a parent dies, a filing cabinet full of all the fascinating stuff also ceases to exist. I never imagined how hungry I'd be one day to look inside it.”

"Power is lost or won, never created or destroyed. Power is a visitor to, not a possession of, those it empowers. The mad tend to crave it, many of the sane crave it, but the wise worry about its long-term side effects. Power is crack cocaine for your ego and battery acid for your soul. Power’s comings and goings, from host to host, via war, marriage, ballot box, diktat, and accident of birth, are the plot of history. The empowered may serve justice, remodel the Earth, transform lush nations into smoking battlefields, and bring down skyscrapers, but power itself is amoral.”

“While the wealthy are no more likely to be born stupid than the poor, a wealthy upbringing compounds stupidity while a hardscrabble childhood dilutes it, if only for Darwinian reasons."

"If an atrocity isn't written about, it stops existing when the last witnesses die."

“Adverbs are cholesterol in the veins of prose.”

Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3

Monday, January 16, 2017

Henry VI Part 1, 2, and 3
By William Shakespeare 

Shakespeare’s histories have always felt less accessible to me than his other work. But I realized the other day that it’s probably because I’m not that familiar with the people involved. What is the musical “Hamilton” if not our version of Shakespeare's histories? It’s a theatrical show based on our own country’s history. Shakespeare's histories are not as easy for us to understand because we they are covering a time period that we don’t always learn about. But during Shakespeare's time everyone knew who those dukes and kings were, just as we know names like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway, all of that to say that these three plays worked much better for me than some of the other histories of his I've tackled and I think it’s because I finally made that connection. It was also incredibly helpful to me to watch the Hollow Crown series before reading the plays. It covers all three of these plays although it's called Henry VI Part one and two, it's really a combination of parts 1, 2 and 3.They are so well done and watching those first helped me picture a face with a name while reading the place, which helped me keep all the characters straight.

These plays are part of the eight plays that make up the War of the Roses. Henry VI Part 1 includes the original scene where the characters pick a white or red rose to declare their allegiance. From there it’s a constant stream of battle and betrayal as they all fight for the thrown. Poor King Henry VI is thrust into his role as monarch when he’s only a baby. The death of his father meant a life time watching others attempt to steal his throne. Almost everyone in the plays comes to a bloody end by the final curtain. 

A few thoughts:
Margaret was such a bad ass. She was conniving, but she was strong where her husband, King Henry VI, was weak. I have to admire her and she certainly has some of the best lines. 

We meet the infamous Richard in these plays. I'd read and seen Richard III before, so reading these gave me a better understanding of his character's background. He’s a delicious villain and one that I loved getting to know.
“Why, I can smile and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face for all occasions”

BOTTOM LINE: I ended up loving them. I was surprised by how hooked I got on the War of the Roses drama, but it’s like a soap opera. It’s amazing to see how power seems to corrupt all the touch it. Even those who are not driven with a desire for power are often the easiest to steal power from, because they aren’t as vicious as others. I would definitely read part 1, 2, and 3 back-to-back because they work better as one continuous story. I also highly recommend watching the Hollow Crown series first, but just dive into the plays and enjoy them! 

“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.”

“For where thou art, there is the world itself,
With every several pleasure in the world,
And where thou art not, desolation.”

“Unbidden guests are often welcomest when they are gone.”